A literature review and meta-analysis of drug company-funded mental health websites

Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2013 Dec;128(6):422-33. doi: 10.1111/acps.12146. Epub 2013 May 10.


Objective: The pharmaceutical industry exercises pervasive influence in the mental health field. The internet has become a primary source of mental health information for the public and practitioners. This study therefore compared mental health websites funded and not funded by drug companies.

Method: A systematic literature review of studies examining the role of drug companies in the funding of mental health websites was conducted, followed by a meta-analysis of studies comparing drug company-funded (DCF) sites with sites not funded by the industry.

Results: Mental health websites, in general, overemphasize biogenetic causal explanations and medication. Many mental health websites (42%) are either drug company owned (6%) or receive funding from drug companies (36%). A meta-analysis found that DCF sites are significantly more biased toward biogenetic causes (P < 0.01) and toward medication (P < 0.0001) than sites that are financially independent of the industry.

Conclusion: Practitioners are encouraged to inform patients about the bias inherent in industry-sponsored websites and to recommend, instead, more balanced websites that present a range of evidence-based information about causes and treatments.

Keywords: drug industry; internet; mental health; psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Industry / economics*
  • Humans
  • Internet / economics*
  • Internet / standards
  • Mental Health / economics*
  • Mental Health / education
  • Patient Education as Topic / economics*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards