Today in Texas, nearly 30 million of us are dealing with diseases and disabilities, ranging from asthma to cancer, and from diabetes to mental illness. What may not be as evident is the impact of research, clinical trials and investment in new treatments that are happening right here in our own backyard to address many of those conditions.
Research is our best hope for addressing many of the most debilitating and complex conditions facing Texans. The list of what science has achieved through research and clinical trials, including those here in Texas, is significant and growing.
A new report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) quantifies this work in terms of jobs and economic activity. In 2020, the biopharmaceutical industry supported more than 249,800 jobs throughout Texas and generated $76.5 billion in economic activity across the state.
That’s significant and our state leaders would be wise to continue to encourage both public and private sector research, clinical trials, and investments in new medicines and treatment options. But the real benefit that we cannot lose sight of is the human one.
You are either one of the 29.1 million Texans with a chronic disease or disability, or you know someone who is – either a family member, colleague or neighbor. As is often the case, Texans experiencing mental health concerns can be overshadowed or overlooked due to the long-running stigma surrounding mental health in our state and across the U.S.
The reality is, however, that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences a mental health episode each year, and 1 in 6 U.S. youths between the ages of 6 and 16 experiences mental health concerns. Some 3.6 million adult Texans live with mental illness, and it’s the work of scientific research and clinical trials that brings hope for a brighter, healthier future for these Texans.
One such example is an oral medication that has been proven effective for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. It’s a medication being tested at clinical trial research sites in six Texas cities, and it offers new hope for the millions of Americans with this mental health diagnosis.
Clinical trials for this and other cutting-edge treatments take an average of seven to sometimes more than 10 years to take medicines from the development stage to patients. These trials represent more than half of the estimated $2.6 billion average cost of developing a single new medicine.
Yet, there is work to be done. Mental health research and investment suffer from disparities just as barriers to mental health care persist in our state and country. Of the more than 2,500 open clinical trials in Texas right now, only 78 address mental health.
We can and should celebrate the significant number of clinical trials and dollars that flow into our state, helping to not only drive our economy, but also to deliver hope and health to millions of Texans. Instead of resting on this success, we should redouble our efforts to spur scientists in the biopharmaceutical sector to expand their work in Texas.
Innovation, health and hope can be found in our state – in the labs, research facilities and universities that make up Texas’ biopharmaceutical sector right here in our backyard. NAMI Texas envisions a time when all affected by mental illness receive services and supports to facilitate recovery. Investment in additional clinical trials and treatments is a key factor in achieving that goal.
Hansch is the executive director of NAMI Texas.