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ECNP expresses concern at AstraZeneca neuroscience pull-out

The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology expresses its deep concern at the recently announced withdrawal by AstraZeneca from neuroscience drug research. AstraZeneca's pull-out is especially disturbing given that it follows a series of similar withdrawals in the last two years by major pharmaceutical companies. There is a growing sense that neuroscience in Europe is now facing a severe crisis.

"Disorders of the brain are Europe's pre-eminent health care concern of the future," says ECNP president, Joseph Zohar, professor of psychiatry at Tel Aviv University. "Medications, properly targeted, are in almost all cases the key to effective treatment. To have a major player like AstraZeneca, with an outstanding history of innovation and development in disorders of the brain, pull out of the field in this way will inevitably affect Europeans' access to high-quality medications in the future. This is not good news for patients."

Research sponsored by ECNP shows that more than a third of all Europeans experience some form of mental disorder in any given year, at a total cost to the region of some 800 billion per annum. The direct medical costs of these disorders constitute almost a quarter of the European Union's total health care expenditure, with indirect costs from work absences to enforced early retirement almost twice as much again. The social and emotional costs are incalculable.

AstraZeneca's pull-out is especially disturbing given that it follows a series of similar withdrawals in the last two years by major pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Merck, Sanofi and Novartis, who have all significantly downsized their neuroscience commitment. There is a growing sense that neuroscience in Europe is now facing a severe crisis.

"Neuroscience has long been one of Europe's outstanding scientific strengths," says ECNP secretary, Sven Ove gren, professor of neuroscience at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet. "The loss of hundreds of research positions in the field is an enormous blow. Coming on top of similar closures at almost all of Europe's big pharma companies, it's a very worrying development. What's now urgently needed is united action from all those interested in Europe's neuroscientific future to ensure that the region's neuroscience research base of which pharma is an indispensible part does not suffer permanent and possibly irreversible damage."


Contact: Sonja Mak
European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

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