Mental Illness Pharmaceuticals Public Policy

Why isn’t there more mental health drug innovation?

There have been a number of efforts emphasize the importance of mental health and put mental health treatments at the same level of respect as physical health.  For instance, there was the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 and also The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) , which:

…requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to ensure that financial requirements (such as co-pays, deductibles) and treatment limitations (such as visit limits) applicable to mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits are no more restrictive than the predominant requirements or limitations applied to substantially all medical/surgical benefits.

Despite, these efforts, drug development for serious mental illness has lagged behind physical health treatment developments. One reason is restrictive reimbursement policies. For instance, the head of R&D&D at mental health drug specialist Lundbeck stated that government pricing restrictions made the development of drugs to treat mental illness less enticing for Pharma.

“Over the past five or six years, many of the major companies have actually pulled deliberately out of the area because they foresaw the systems that governments have to curtail their costs,” he pointed out to us. “They basically apply metrics that are not appropriate for mental health treatment.

“There has been no willingness to pay for the medication when it comes out. And if that’s the case then companies would obviously much rather research and invest in other therapeutic areas where there is an apparently higher appreciation of what we bring. That’s how simple it is.”

Although there is much rhetoric about the importance of treating mental health, society’s priorities will only change when key stakeholders put their money where there mouth is.

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