The current development of CNS drug research

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Aug;16(7):1687-93. doi: 10.1017/S1461145713000345. Epub 2013 May 7.


In the past few years, several high profiled pharmaceutical companies have decided to shut down major research activities within the central nervous system (CNS) area. For example, in December 2011 Novartis announced that the company is closing its neuroscience facility in Basel, Switzerland, where Novartis is headquartered (Abbott, 2011). It follows similar moves by GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, both based in the UK, which in 2010 announced the closure of major parts of their neuroscience research divisions globally (Jack, Financial Times, 4 February 2010). Also companies primarily based in the USA, Pfizer and Merck, as well as the French company Sanofi, have pulled back on research into brain disorders. This development is still proceeding, as e.g. AstraZeneca closed their CNS/pain centres (Fiercebiotech, press release, 2 February 2012). Several of the companies have launched smaller new initiatives based on studies of genetics and biomarkers, but as mental disorders such as unipolar depression impose the largest disease burden worldwide, e.g. 6.2% disability-adjusted life year of total (WHO, 2008), and current treatments do not work particularly well for many patients, this has obviously raised a number of concerns related to how the future developments should be carried out, and whether the genetic approach may be sufficient. In June 2012, the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology ( hosted an international workshop in order to discuss and consider the consequences and implications of the withdrawal of these research activities. This paper presents the problem background together with a summary of the viewpoints of the invited speakers and recommendations for future intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Biomedical Research / trends*
  • Central Nervous System Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Humans


  • Central Nervous System Agents