R&D: Big pharma coming back to mental health and investing in Europe

15-05-2019

R&D: Big pharma coming back to mental health and investing in Europe

(Source: PharmaTimes 2019-05-15)

The biological life sciences industry is making great advances in physical health disorders, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. But there has been a shift away from developing new drugs for mental health disorders, despite the massive health burden they create and the fact they are potentially growing even more prominent.

There has been a combination of commercial cautiousness and lack of political will to get involved. People think mental health disorders are somehow more difficult than other common conditions. But if we applied the type of science to mental health disorders that is currently being applied to the likes of cancer and heart disease, it would pay the same dividends.

By that, I mean a combination of basic and clinical research together with effort from pharmaceutical companies – that’s what we need to get the best new treatments.

Through the decades

In the Fifties, pharmaceutical companies began working with scientists and clinicians to develop a number of new drug treatments. By the mid-Eighties, they were tweaking antidepressants and antipsychotics to make them safer.

About 10 years ago, big pharma seemed to leave mental health. It means that even with the best possible use of current treatments, there is a great unmet need for new therapies.

New treatments in America

Fortunately, there is a suggestion that big pharma is now coming back to mental health. In America, we are finally seeing some genuinely new medicines developed to treat mental health disorders, such as esketamine, a new type of antidepressant and brexanolone, a new drug for postnatal depression.

These are exciting developments but at the moment they are not available in the UK and Europe.

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