Many European pharmaceutical companies have significantly reduced their workflow in the realm of neuroscience, according to Fierce Biotech. Companies are challenged with a high risk of trial failure while investors demand new products.
GlaxoSmithKline was the first to leave the specialty area, followed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi-aventis. Even Merck in the U.S. is cutting back. Now the neuroscience disease groups say it expects to see fewer new drugs being added to its portfolio—with potentially alarming consequences for patients.
The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development said clinical trial costs for neuroscience programs tend to be more expensive than other fields, even as the approval rate for new drugs is lower.
Dr. Mary Baker, president of the European Federation of Neurological Associations, told the Wall Street Journal, "One key reason is that there are few proven biomarkers in CNS [central nervous system] diseases, so it means expensive research for potentially little gain."
Patrick Vallance, chief of medical R&D at GSK, said new programs will need to be backed by public collaborators that can help fund the research if work is to continue in this field. Others said more money needs to be spent on basic research that can help identify new drugs that can do more for patients.
"Neurosciences research in many areas is very exciting, but in some areas is not mature enough to make drug discovery efficient or effective today—which is why I believe that further investment is needed, and have argued the case for public-sector funding in this area," says Vallance.