Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Are pharmaceutical companies really moving away from psychiatric drug development?

In my previous post, I mentioned that Thomas Insel, Director of NIMH, had noted that pharmaceutical companies are moving away from psychiatric research. He elaborated on this further in a previous post on his blog, when he expressed concern about GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca apparently terminating their psychiatric medication development programmes. Jeffrey Lieberman discussed this issue further in a Medscape broadcast.

However, PhRMA reported earlier in the year that a record 313 new medicines to treat patients suffering from mental health disorders are being developed by America’s pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies (see press release with link to full report). Doesn't sound like a lack of investment to me, even if there are no drugs working by new mechanisms. As has always been the case, the motivation for research is to fulfill the wish for medication that will provide the cure we've been hoping for.

A report from NIMH takes the issue of cure  further to prevention and emphasises the importance of so-called personalization and preemption as the foundations for new treatments. As the report itself notes, psychiatric genetics has not yielded a single validated target for any mental disorder. The causes of mental disorders and their mechanisms are unknown making the development of so-called personalized psychiatry a risk for the pharmaceutical industry, which it understandably may not wish to take (see News and Notes from Psychiatric Services).

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