America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 187 medicines to help the nearly 60 million American adults now suffering from some form of mental illness—from anxiety to depression and from schizophrenia to addictive disorders, such as dependence on alcohol or drugs. All of the medicines are either in clinical trials or awaiting review by the Food and Drug Administration.
Over the past half century, biopharmaceutical research has helped transform mental illnesses from misunderstood causes of shame and fear into often highly treatable conditions. For example, medicines for treating depression are helping thousands of people live productive lives and breakthrough schizophrenia medicines have enabled patients to be treated in the community rather than being institutionalized.
Despite such progress, mental illnesses continue to exact a heavy human and economic toll. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. According to the NIMH, serious mental illnesses cost the United States more than $317 billion annually in lost wages, health care expenditures, and disability benefits.
Examples of some medicines now being tested to treat mental illnesses include:
- A medicine to potentially treat the various symptoms associated with schizophrenia, with diminished side effects.
- An intranasal medicine for anxiety which has been shown to improve symptoms within several minutes of administration.
- A potential first-in-class medicine for the treatment of major depression that recruits the patients’ own neural stem cells to protect the central nervous system against damage from chronic exposure to stress.
Researching and developing new medicines remains a risky investment and lengthy process. But advances in our understanding of mental illnesses and how to treat them have allowed America’s biopharmaceutical companies to conduct the cutting-edge research needed to reduce the destructive toll of these disorders and to allow more patients to lead healthier, happier, more productive lives.