CommentaryPsychiatric Drug Discovery

Revolution Stalled

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Science Translational Medicine  10 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 155, pp. 155cm11
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003142


  • Terrible thing to waste.

    Pharma has removed psychiatric diseases from its body of drug discovery projects. Geneticists might help reverse the trend. [The Pilgrim by René Magritte. 1966]

    CREDIT: © 2012 C. Herscovici, London/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


  • Table 1. Sale of psychiatric drugs (2010).

    In addition, a large fraction of prescriptions for anticonvulsants are written for patients with bipolar disorder and impulse-control disorders.

    Drug class/indicationGlobal sales
    Antipsychotic drugs$22 billion
    Antidepressant drugs$20 billion
    Antianxiety drugs$11 billion
    Stimulants$5.5 billion
    Dementia$5.5 billion
    Sleep disorders$4.5 billion
    Substance use and addictive disorders$3 billion
  • Table 2. Major classes of drugs developed to treat psychiatric disorders.

    NE, norepinephrine; 5-HT, 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin); GABA, γ-aminobutyric acid.

    Drug classPrototype compoundMolecular target(s)
    Mood stabilizerLithium (Li+)GSK3β, inositol 1-phosphatase*
    Antipsychotic drugsChlorpromazineDopamine D2 receptor
    AntidepressantsIproniazid, ImipramineMonoamine oxidase, NE, and 5-HT transporters
    Benzodiazepine receptor agonistsChlordiazepoxideGABAA receptor, benzodiazepine site

    *Although much research favors GSK3β (glycogen synthase kinase β) as the relevant target of Li+, the drug’s mechanism of action remains uncertain.

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