Both the WSJ and Fierce Biotech wrote pieces on the seemingly worrisome trend for European pharma (GSK, AZ, and Sanofi) companies, and even US (Merck), cutting back their efforts in neuroscience. The companies indicated that the risk of failure was highest in the neuro area, it took longer to complete projects and it cost considerably more.
Generally, this was conceded to be a problem of not having any real good biomarkers to speed the research. Suggested measures to improve the situation include:
- More government investment into basic neuroscience research in academic arena
- Shared development risk through government or public funding
- More private-public partnerships to develop drugs
- More big pharma, biotech and academic collaborations
The industry has also called on the regulators to help out by "fast-tracking" reviews in this area, and have asked that longer patent terms be granted. Bascially, they are asking that someone help underwrite the risk. This may be ok as long as commeasurate reward flows back to the underwriters as well.
Regardless, as things stand now, new medicines in schizophrenia, stroke, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and autism are likely to be slow in coming with the cutbacks. Industry observers noted that over 20 years ago, a similar exodus occurred in pursuit of new antibiotics (albeit cause underlying reason was different) with the consequence that we are facing a dearth of new meds now to battle new resistant strains. This is viewed as a strategic mistake in the treatment corridors. It woudl be great if we didn't repeat with neuro diseases that currently rank number one in terms of cost to the health care system in Europe.
Posted by Bruce Lehr March 28th 2011.