Collaborating to Treat Mental Health Patients

Collaborating to Treat Mental Health Patients

06.30.14 | By Dr. Bill Chin

As the editorial from Patrick Kennedy and Husseini Manji in USA TODAY discusses why brain research is vital, some of the sentiments echo the discussion from our Mental Health Capitol Hill briefing last week.

Approximately 61.5 million Americans suffer from a mental health disorder, and as a result, you would be hard pressed to find a person in this country who has not been touched by these conditions. This reality means research and development are more important than ever to bring innovative treatments to patients and improve millions of lives. While the current stigma surrounding mental health disorders must be addressed to better help patients, the research underway is also providing hope for the future.

To discuss the current state-of-affairs for mental health innovation and what needs to be done to ensure patients have access to the best possible treatment options, we are incredibly thankful that Representatives Leonard Lance and Doris Matsui generously hosted PhRMA and an esteemed group of panelists from the Mental Health Liaison Group, Lundbeck Research USA and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., for a briefing on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Matsui indicated that it is more important than ever that we have collaboration because bringing together the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biopharmaceutical industry, patients and other key stakeholders is critical to future breakthroughs. Dr. Stevin Zorn of Lundbeck Research USA reinforced this point by noting the current state of collaboration provides good reason to have tremendous hope for breakthrough innovations that are coming around the corner. He specifically outlined the exciting progress in the use of biomarkers for accurate diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.

Chuck Ingoglia of the National Council for Behavioral Health and Co-Chair of the Mental Health Liaison Group and Dr. John Docherty of Otsuka America Pharmaceutical also highlighted the progress we’ve made in helping patients living with mental health disorders. Chuck Ingoglia noted that innovative new medicines as key to treating mental illness, and John Docherty shared how he has seen treatment evolve since his father suffered from a mental illness.

Perhaps the most compelling panelist, however, was Katina Seros, who shared her own story of being misdiagnosed as a teenager and coping with an ineffective treatment plan. After accurately being diagnosed with bipolar type 2 disorder, Katina is able to lead a healthy and productive life due to a well-rounded treatment plan. Katina is fortunate to have access to the treatments that work for her. However, as the panel highlighted, too many patients are struggling to get the medication they need.

Although biopharmaceutical companies are currently developing 119 medicines to treat disorders from anxiety to schizophrenia, we need an improved structure in place that helps patients access these treatments. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is designed to help patients get needed medicines, research suggests this may not be the case. Single-source brand medicines (those that do not have a generic equivalent) for mental health conditions are covered in health insurance exchange plans only 66 percent of the time, and the most innovative new medicines are included in exchange plans just 26 percent of the time. This means high out-of-pocket costs for patients. To deliver the care necessary for those living with mental health conditions, we must work to ensure they have access to the best treatment possible.

Hosting discussions like this one where different stakeholders can come together and discuss how to help patients suffering from mental health disorders is essential, and PhRMA would like to thank all of the participants of the Mental Health Capitol Hill Briefing: Partnering for Access and Treatments for Patients for sharing their stories and contributing to this important dialogue. We look forward to continued collaboration with all stakeholders as we work toward this enormously important goal. 

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