Some 16 medicines are in different stages of development as the UK-based pharmaceutical industry searches for new ways to overcome schizophrenia, according to a report published by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) today.
All of the approaches to the development of new medicines are aimed at improving both the number of treatments available to doctors and their efficacy, and they are outlined in the report, Target Schizophrenia.
"A whole wave of new medicines to help fight this distressing and disruptive condition has only recently become available to doctors and patients, but already the industry is working on the next phase of medicines," said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI.
"The search for new medicines to help people in the UK and worldwide is continuous, and is why the UK-based industry is spending nearly £9 million every day on research and development."
The report examines the huge cost of schizophrenia to society. Estimates suggest that the total cost is £23,000 per patient per year, adding up to a total annual sum - including lost productivity - of £2.7 billion. Of this, medicines account for less than five per cent.
The number of people likely to experience schizophrenia in their lifetime is about one in ten. There are some 7,500 new cases a year in the UK and, at any one time, three to four people in every thousand are experiencing schizophrenia-related problems.
In Britain, about 35,000 people enter hospital every year with the condition and, for every person with schizophrenia, ten others are affected by its consequences, whether family, friends or workmates.
The report pinpoints three main types of schizophrenia, which may overlap to varying degrees:
There is no known single cause for schizophrenia.
The report demonstrates that, because of the complexity of the disease and the fact that it has many different causes, no single group of medicines can provide all the answers. For example, the commonly used atypical antipsychotic medicines do not work in some people, suggesting that other brain areas, not targeted by these medicines, may be involved.
This is leading to further research to see if other receptors in the brain may contribute to some forms of schizophrenia, and a number of experimental medicines are in early stages of development to explore this possibility.
The unmet needs of many people with schizophrenia means physicians are also examining existing medicines to see if they have further potential. All of these approaches are expanding our knowledge of the condition as new discoveries are made.
"In the past two decades in particular, there have been unprecedented strides in our understanding of brain organisation and biochemistry, real advances in medicines development and signs of a greater awareness and less hostile public attitudes," Target Schizophrenia reports.
However, while work continues on developing new medicines, the prospects for a cure still look distant, and the report acknowledges that medicines alone cannot provide the whole answer.
Copies of Target Schizophrenia, which is a completely revised edition of a booklet first published in 199X, are available free from the Publications Department, ABPI, 12 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2DY; phone 020 7930 3477 ext. 1446; fax 020 7747 1411; or email [email protected].
Target Scizophrenia is the 15th in a series of guides charting the pharmaceutical industry's progress in major disease areas. Copies of the other guides, also free, are available from the address above. Those still in print include: Target Pain, Target Cancer, Target Crohn's & Colitis, Target Epilepsy, Target Osteoporosis, Target Rheumatoid Arthritis, Target Parkinson's, Target Diabetes, Target Stroke, Target Depression, Target Migraine, Target Prostate, and Target Alzheimer's.
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410