Help on the Way for the Mentally Ill as New Medications Proliferate

There are seemingly unlimited methods of “addressing” the underrecognized mental health epidemic in the U.S. that have been hatched over the years by government bodies, health systems, and even general social discourse. The problem is, however, that the chemical imbalances inherent to many of these serious mental illnesses (SMI) can really only be dealt with through precision medicine. But there’s a bright future ahead in this area, as scores of biopharma researchers are leveraging an improved understanding of the human brain to bring more advanced and effective medicines to those affected.

A recently released report from PhRMA detailed more than 160 medicines currently in development that target common mental illnesses, with all either in the clinical trial phase or standing by for FDA approval. In terms of covering the dozens of diagnostic categories that fall under the mental illness umbrella, the report shows that representation is diverse and, crucially, reflective of each illness’ statistics in the population. Depression had the highest total with 54, and schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders each had counts in the mid-30s. On the lower end in terms of new medicine count were bipolar disorder and ADHD with 13 and eight, respectively.

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PhRMA’s report also laid bare the fact that barriers to treatment such as coverage and access restrictions are not being knocked down. Around 61% of Americans managing a mental health condition and taking prescription medicines have worries about their meds being subject to insurance formulary exclusion, while only 47% of insured Americans actually take prescribed medication. Moreover, just over half of insured Americans with mental health conditions taking prescribed meds are concerned with having to wait on an insurer’s authorization.