The Clinical Need
Neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar and unipolar depressive disorder are a major burden to affected individuals and their families and to society at large. This group of mental illnesses affect at least 2% of the population worldwide, and whilst 50% of sufferers do not receive
adequate treatment, they cost hundreds of billions in healthcare provision, treatments and lost earnings. In this context, a large study, the "Global Burden of Disease", was undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, and Harvard University and revealed that:
- Mental illness accounts for over fifteen percent of the burden of disease in established market economies, such as the United States.
- This burden is more than the disease burden caused by all cancers, respiratory conditions, alcohol and drug use, infections and parasitic diseases.
- Based on their projections neuropsychiatric disorder will be the primary cause of DALYS (disability adjusted for life years lost) in 2020
The current diagnosis of psychiatric disorder is subjective, not only because of the complex spectrum of symptoms and their similarity across disorders, but also due to the lack of empirical disease markers. In addition, contemporary drug treatments can often have severe side effects that make it difficult for many patients to continue with medication. There is therefore a clinical need for empirical diagnosti c tests and more effective drugs to treat severe mental illnesses. Indeed, despite intensive efforts by the pharmaceutical industry, therapeutic regimes available to treat these disorders are aimed largely at relieving symptoms and only appear to slow or halt the underlying disease progression in early stages of less severe cases.