Mental health is a global crisis. 25 percent of the world’s population struggle with mental illness; and mental, neurological, and substance use disorders account for 11 percent of the total global disease burden according to data from the Healthy Brains Global Initiative (HBGI). Global mental healthcare costs are expected to balloon from USD 823 billion in 2010 to USD two trillion in 2030, with an additional whopping USD 16.3 trillion in cumulative lost productivity costs. Additionally, COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem, increasing rates of depression and anxiety in people of all ages but especially the young.
This issue, which has often been underfunded and misunderstood in the past, is now much closer to the top of healthcare decision makers’ agendas, not least in Switzerland. As Anne Lévy, director general of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) outlines, “Managing the COVID-19 crisis will remain our top priority in months ahead. However, in the longer term, the Swiss healthcare system will have to address several challenges in order to continue offering the best possible treatments to the entire population. For example, the increasing prevalence of mental illness constitutes a major challenge, in particular due to the ageing of the Swiss population.”
The increasing prevalence of mental illness constitutes a major challenge, in particular due to the ageing of the Swiss population
Biogen’s Katharina Gasser strikes a similar tone, noting that “Unfortunately, the burden of mental health in Switzerland is quite high and has been for a long time. However, the issue is getting even more serious; the health insurer AXA published a study in October 2020 which showed a significant increase in mental health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among the younger population, in Switzerland and other European countries.”
She continues, “The study reported that six percent of participants reported mental health issues pre-pandemic; a number that rose to 15 percent after the first months of COVID. This may be due to the very challenging situation at school or university, not being able to go out, having no sports or leisure activities, and simply not being able to be a normal young person.”
“The study also looked at the incidence of mental health pre-pandemic with 30 percent of participants saying that they experienced some mental health challenges on at least one occasion in their lives. This shows that mental health, especially depression, is a big public health challenge that we are not yet doing enough to tackle.”
Unfortunately, the burden of mental health in Switzerland is quite high and has been for a long time. However, the issue is getting even more serious
Gasser feels that Biogen has the potential to be part of the solution to the mental health crisis in Switzerland via a new partnership with brain health disorder specialist Sage. “Major depressive disorders and postpartum depression are highly prevalent disorders that are seeing an uptick during the pandemic and we believe that Sage’s lead asset, which is currently in Phase III trials, has the potential to be a first in class oral therapy for both,” she asserts. “This is still ongoing, and we hope that this clinical trial is going to have a positive outcome.”
Given depression’s connections to Biogen’s other core therapeutic areas, Gasser is optimistic that this collaboration can help move the needle in what is a complex issue with currently unsatisfactory treatment options. “We are excited about the potential to bring together Biogen’s leading capabilities in neuroscience with Sage’s deep expertise in psychiatry,” she exclaims. “Major depressive disorder is a common co-morbidity of multiple neurological disorders in Biogen’s core therapeutic areas. There is a tremendous unmet medical need in depression, and we are optimistic about the potential to help transform the treatment of depression and address the stigma often associated with chronic use of antidepressants.”
Add Your Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.