One question that has been plaguing the mental health field in recent years is: Why are there no new, effective psychiatric drugs being developed?
The latest, most “innovative,” most commonly used psychotropic drugs are ones that were accidentally stumbled upon 30 or 40 years ago, and often have side effects so intense that they outweigh the minimal relief they provide. It’s gotten to the point where many pharmaceutical companies are pulling themselves out of research because of the extreme expenses, slow processes, and very slim chances of finding a successful drug to be marketed for those who suffer from mental illness.
Since the discovery of antidepressants and antipsychotics, pharmaceutical companies have been spinning their wheels trying to create an illusion of “newer and better.” It gives the public an idea that they are making progress, when they are simply creating slight variations to the original product that didn’t work to begin with.
They often market these products as not having the side effects of [fill in name of drug here], and while the side effects are different, they are not necessarily better. This has been the case with drugs such as clozapine, and continues to this day. This lets major companies spend their time trying to convince the mentally ill that they’re providing relief while lining their pockets and not changing any major formula to provide a substantial amount of relief. With all of the technology available today, why are these corporations not capable of coming up with better medications?
I think that the majority of us can agree that the current system isn’t working – for companies, for doctors, or for the mentally ill. Pharmaceutical companies are receding from further research after Eli Lilly & Company’s LY2140023 failed in its Phase III clinical trial, which issued a huge blow to the psychiatric community at large, as this drug looked as though it was about to become the first breakthrough in years. It makes sense, then, that companies are beginning to recede. After all, testing for brain-related drugs takes 8½ years in human testing alone and is more likely to fail than any other type of medication, all the while being massively expensive to test.
However, they continue to create huge revenue, which proves that people are still desperately searching for relief. So, what is stopping the supposed success of breakthrough drugs? Well, psychiatrists and therapists often misinterpret the hazy, resurfacing symptoms of mental illness that can be read many different ways. Mental illness is not as clear cut as physical illness. It cannot be tested with a blood test; rather it has to be diagnosed by symptoms.
Since it is not possible to treat mental illnesses as a homogenous group, it is also not possible to create a drug that will treat any mental illness completely. There will have to be multiple drugs for any one mental illness due to people’s reactions to mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders. There is also the matter of using animal models, and while I can say that I’m all for making sure medications are safe for human beings, if an animal model doesn’t resemble a human reaction, then stem cell research is definitely the better option. Our system isn’t working; in fact, it’s falling apart. As soon as we fix these problems to the best of our abilities we can begin to move forward.
As a field, psychiatry is innovative. Now is not the time to slow down, simply because things are getting challenging. We need to understand the human brain and mental illness better in order to provide patients with the relief they deserve. They deserve to live lives free of suffering, without the side effects brought on by many of the current medications, which can often cause or exacerbate other mental disorders.
When we push forward through a time of crisis, such as this, it gives hope to the industry and patients alike – instead of being stuck in the history of accidental discovery.
Grohol, John M. New Anxiety, Bipolar, and Depression Drugs in the Pipeline? 28 February 2013. http:/psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/02/28/. 28 February 2013.
New Psychiatric Medications in the Pipeline. n.d. http:/kimh039.hubpages.com/hub/New-Psychiatric-Medications-in-the-Pipeline. 28 February 2013.
Sanders, Laura. With drug firms in retreat, the pipeline for new psychiatric medications dries up. 07 February 2013. http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/348115/description/No_New_Meds. 28 February 2013.