The pharmaceutical industry's turn: from medication to genetics

01/01/2011View on timeline


A significant turn occurred around 2011, when major companies including Novartis, GlaxoSmith-Kline, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck, and Sanofi decided to stop investing in research on drugs for brain disorders and redirected their efforts toward genetics (see Tracy 2016 on the “neuro funding rollercoaster”).


The decision was motivated by commercial considerations: Because many generic psychiatric drugs are available, because new medications do not work better than the older ones, and because most candidates aimed at new brain targets fail after years of clinical trials, companies concluded that there are better chances of identifying genetic biomarkers than neurobiological ones (Abbott 2011). This crisis joins the weakening of trust sketched above, rooted in the practices of industry and the failure to globalize psychiatric diagnoses and classifications effectively.

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

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For more information, read on:

Tracy, Harry M. 2016. “The Neuro Funding Rollercoaster.” Cerebrum (June).

Abbott, Alison. 2011. “Novartis to Shut Brain Research Facility.” Nature 480 (8 December): 161–162.

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Published in 4/02/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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