The big money has moved from developing psychiatric drugs to manipulating our brain networks, writes Vaughan Bell
The psychiatric drug age may have reached its peak. Although mind-altering medications are being prescribed in record numbers, signs of a radically new approach to understanding and treating mental illness are emerging from the deep waters of neuroscience. No longer focused on developing pills, a huge research effort is now devoted to altering the function of specific neural circuits by physical intervention in the brain.
The starkest indication that drugs are increasingly being thought of as yesterday's cutting-edge comes from the little mentioned fact that almost all the major drug companies have closed or curtailed their drug discovery programmes for mental and neurological disorders. The realisation that there has been little in the way of genuine innovation since the major classes of psychiatric drugs were discovered in the 1950s has made future sales look bleak. New drugs have regularly appeared since then, often with fewer side effects, but most are little better in terms of effectiveness.