There is a serious lack of new drug treatments for mental health disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia, say leading international academics, who are currently advocating for new approaches to drug development for mental health disorders. 

Although nearly 40 percent of the population is affected by mental health issues, which includes everything from depression and dementia to anxiety and schizophrenia, researchers say there is still a crisis in the development of new treatments.

“The pharmaceutical industry has in part withdrawn, either because they struggled to translate research into a viable drug or because of financial pressures.  Although some have remained, there are still insufficient resources being focused on diseases which affect a disproportionate percentage of the population,” said Professor Barbara Sahakian, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.

In the paper, the researchers point to genetics as fertile ground for drug exploration, referring to the impact it has made on other medical treatments. Furthermore, they believe that academics should investigate the compounds that industry has abandoned.

“We need to reassess how we identify and validate new drugs, and should consider open access drug development which involves both industry and academia,” said Sahakian.

Other studies have proven that mental disorders disproportionately affect the young, with 75 percent of disorders beginning before the age of 24.  Because of this, the academics also push for earlier intervention and preventative treatments.

The researchers also advocate non-pharmacological approaches.  They emphasize the effectiveness of treatments which combine medications with psychosocial treatments. 

For example, new treatments could include the use of emerging technology such as video games that help autistic children interact socially through increased eye contact.

The other lead author of the paper was Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States.

Their paper is published in the journal Nature.

Source:  University of Cambridge