Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NIMH Shifts Research Focus From Large Clinical Trials

Most of the medications used to treat mental illness were discovered by chance, and research into new compounds has slowed in recent years. “Amazingly, after three decades of broad use of these medications, we still don’t know how they work when they are effective,” wrote Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in a recent statement. “[T]he problem for new therapies for mental disorders is not only lack of compounds but lack of understanding of the targets for treatment development.”

In response, NIMH is switching its focus from large clinical trials to the use of drugs as clinical probes to identify or verify targets that are biologically relevant to psychiatric disorders. Called “experimental medicine,” this approach focuses on human studies rather than rodent research, Insel explained. Even failure may be useful, if it helps rule out a likely dead end. “We will need public-private partnerships, clinical-trial networks, and creation of a new ‘pre-competitive’ culture to change the face of medication development and have more alternatives for people with mental illness,” he concluded.

To read more in Psychiatric News about public-private partnerships in the search for potential new medications, click here.
(Image: Alfred Bondarenko/


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