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A ‘renaissance in neuroscience’ could deliver a fresh crop of psychiatric medicines

One by one, the companies behind Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil soured on psychiatry.

It was the early 2000s, and as America warmed to the sounds of Sisqó and Shakira, the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms were running out of ideas to treat mental illness. Their blockbuster treatments for depression and schizophrenia had reshaped society and made billions of dollars in the process, but the old cash cows were soon to go generic. Efforts to one-up the last generation of drugs mostly resulted in incremental changes to aging medicines. And when insurance companies balked at paying brand-name prices for extended-release generics, the money dried up and the industry moved out.

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“The mindset of Big Pharma in those days was one pill for millions and millions of people,” said John LaMattina, who led Pfizer’s research division from 1999 to 2007. “Everyone was looking for the next Lipitor, and when that fizzled out, there was an exodus out of psychotherapeutic areas.”

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