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New hopes for treating mental illness

Monday, August 6, 2012

There may be encouraging news for the millions of Americans who now suffer from some form of mental illness. A newly released report shows that a record 300-plus medicines are currently being developed in the U.S. to help ease the devastating impact that mental illnesses have on patients, their families and society. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 60 million Americans are affected by some form of mental illness. Nearly one American in seven suffers from a serious mental illness.

For too long, such misunderstood conditions as depression and bipolar disorders have stigmatized patients, needlessly causing shame and fear. In addition to the human toll, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses exacts a heavy economic burden. In fact, according to NIMH, the total direct and indirect cost of treating mental illness in the United States is $205 billion per year. Fortunately, many mental illnesses are highly treatable. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the new medicines being developed hold the promise of providing patients and doctors with more and better treatment options. Among the medicines now in the research pipeline: 66 new treatments for depression, which affects nearly 21 million Americans; 26 medicines to treat addictive disorders, including dependence on alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs; 54 therapies for anxiety disorders, which affect more than 40 million adults; 89 for dementias-including Alzheimer's disease, which affects more than 5 million Americans; and 45 promising remedies for schizophrenia, which strikes some 2.4 million adults each year. In addition to developing new medicines, American pharmaceutical research companies say they've made strides in helping uninsured and underinsured patients gain access to the medicines they need. The companies have sponsored the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), which has helped connect more than 5 million uninsured and financially struggling Americans to more than 475 patient assistance programs that provide free or nearly free medicines.

We applaud those involved in improving the lives of the mentally ill.