A professor and a director at InHealth Associates have claimed that Google’s depression diagnosis tool “is driving people quicker down the path to big pharma.”
The tool, which one of the experts claims was developed in partnership with anti-depressant drug manufacturer Pfizer, allows users to diagnose themselves when they search for “depression” on Google.
“Simon Gilbody, professor of psychological medicine at the University of York, warned that the test has a high likelihood of returning false positives,” reported the Daily Mail on Wednesday. “Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), he claimed that many of the answers the test would identify as warning signs were actually ‘transient psychological distress, which will remit without treatment.’ He also expressed concern that the test could misidentify other disorders or mental health issues as depression.”
Gilbody also added, “it is likely that screening programs will add to the upward trend in antidepressant prescriptions (which have the greatest year on year increase of any drug class).”
“Historically, the boundaries between pharmaceutical advertising and patient information are also blurred by the presence of online disease awareness campaigns sponsored by industry,” he continued.
David Gilbert, director of InHealth Associates, mirrored Gilbody’s concerns, claiming, “Google is driving people quicker down the path to big pharma. Remember, Pfizer funded the development of the tool.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, which partnered with Google for the online test, declared in a blog post it “can be the first step to getting a proper diagnosis.”
“Statistics show that those who have symptoms of depression experience an average of a 6-8 year delay in getting treatment after the onset of symptoms. We believe that awareness of depression can help empower and educate you, enabling quicker access to treatment,” proclaimed Alliance CEO Mary Giliberti. “And while this tool can help, it’s important to note that PHQ-9 is not meant to act as a singular tool for diagnosis. We hope that by making this information available on Google, more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life.”