It is said that one in every 100 people exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia. The history of psychiatric disorders, often characterized as “emotional disorders,” is long, but even today specific causes and cures for many conditions have not been identified. Otsuka Pharmaceutical has been engaged in research and development seeking effective treatments for many years. Though facing many hurdles, more than 25 years of dedication led to the development of a groundbreaking new drug. The history of this drug development is based on an earnest desire to support social reintegration of patients and the indomitable spirit of employees who took up the challenge of discovering new realms.
Otsuka Pharmaceutical began antipsychotic drug development in 1977. Researchers working with antihistamines discovered a chemical compound that affected the central nervous system. In 1980, they succeeded in synthesizing a compound that offered hope. Development appeared to be proceeding smoothly. However, as the project neared its final stages, it suddenly encountered serious problems. The compound under development was not very effective in improving positive symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and hallucinations. And to make matters worse, the research and development budget was almost completely depleted, bringing the antipsychotic drug development project into dire straits.
“When you are unsure, choose the more difficult path.” Researchers who were resigned to re-evaluating their approach were roused by the words of Akihiko Otsuka, president of Otsuka Pharmaceutical at that time. Difficult challenges give birth to creativity. Inspired by these words, the team steered a new course. And in 1987, less than two years later, they succeeded in synthesizing a new compound. This initial success came just 10 years after the launch of the antipsychotic drug development program.
In 2002, Otsuka Pharmaceutical released its first antipsychotic in the U.S. It was approved in Japan in 2006. With few sedative effect, this innovative drug offered a new option for long-term stable psychiatric treatment. Otsuka Pharmaceutical trained a cadre of medical representatives (MRs) specializing in psychiatric treatment and embarked on a program to promote understanding of the new drug. Patient prescriptions were followed up and specific cases were discussed with individual physicians. The strenuous efforts of these MRs bore fruit, and Otsuka's unique antipsychotic has grown to be used in more than 60 countries and regions at its peak.
The first antipsychotics were discovered in the 1950s. These first-generation antipsychotics led to significant advances in the treatment of schizophrenia. More useful second-generation antipsychotics were developed in the 1990s. In the early 21st century, Otsuka Pharmaceutical's new antipsychotic for treatment of schizophrenia, developed over a quarter century and suited for long-term use, is contributing to reintegration of patients into society all over the world. In 2015, Otsuka launched a new drug with a unique mechanism in the U.S. This drug is now approved in more than 60 countries and regions. Yet many psychiatric disorders remain untreated. Otsuka Pharmaceutical employees continue to face the challenges of the long and steep path that leads to solutions.