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N.J. pharma pipelines include 38 mental health drugs

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Merck & Co. and Roche are New Jersey's leaders in developing new treatments for mental illness, according to new data from the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

According to the report, New Jersey companies are responsible for 38 of the 187 mental illness medicines in development. Of those, Merck has nine products in its pipeline. Roche has seven.

Merck's pipeline includes four schizophrenia medicines and three drugs to treat insomnia. It also is developing one medicine each for pediatric bipolar disorder and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Roche has three drugs in development for major depressive disorder, along with drugs related to Down's syndrome, fragile X disorder, autism and schizophrenia.

Overall, PhRMA said depression (52 drugs) and schizophrenia (37 drugs) are the most active areas of research, with anxiety disorders (26 drugs) coming in third.

Among all New Jersey companies, schizophrenia tops the list, with 10 medicines currently in development. Seven depression drugs and sleep disorder drugs also are in Garden State pipelines.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates one in four U.S. adults is affected by a diagnosable medical disorder. Those illnesses add up to more than $317 billion in lost wages, health care spending and disability benefits each year, according to the institute.

The PhRMA report did not include drugs in development to treat Alzheimer's disease. The trade group said it will release a separate Alzheimer's report later in the year.

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