If your doctor suspects you might have depression, there’s a go-to questionnaire they might pull out with nine questions to answer about how you’ve been feeling over the past two weeks.
The questions touch on a range of potential issues, from sleep disturbances, to appetite changes, concentration issues, and your general enjoyment of life.
Many experts say this tool, called the PHQ-9, was never meant to be a definitive diagnostic test aimed at diagnosing mental health issues. It was designed as a first-ditch screening tool; a conversation starter between doctor and patient.
But for primary care physicians strapped for time in the exam room, it is often used as a stand-in for a more in-depth clinical evaluation — a go-to prescribing tool for antidepressants.
Critics say the issue is that it this tool was developed by Pfizer, shortly after Zoloft came on the market.
“These forms have a very low criteria for anxiety and depression,” UK-based psychotherapist James Davies, co-founder of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry, told the Telegraph in 2017. “It’s about getting people in and out of the door in 10 minutes,” often, with a prescription in hand.
As reporter Olivia Goldhill details in a wide-ranging Stat report out this week, the marketer who first dreamed up the idea for what later became the PHQ-9 — the quick tool that ultimately made many primary care doctors more comfortable prescribing antidepressants from exam rooms worldwide — was a “marketing man” working for Pfizer. Howard Kroplick convinced the company to invest in the pricey research required to develop the now-ubiquitous questionnaire.