Don't give up on tough-to-treat depression, Janssen R&D says in new video push

J&J's Janssen R&D launched new videos last week in its Healthy Mind series, this time tackling treatment-resistant depression.

How many prescriptions does it take to find an antidepressant that works? For some patients, it's not one or four or even a dozen, and that's the subject of some new videos in Johnson & Johnson's Healthy Minds online series.

In one, mental health activist and writer Therese Borchard tells her story, which spans 23 different drug combinations and seven different doctors during years of struggling to find a treatment that worked—which she finally did. Finding the right drug therapy wasn't the only challenge, Borchard says: Treatment-resistant depression carries an even bigger stigma than traditional depression because people think patients “don’t want to get better.”

An estimated 30% of patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder are judged treatment resistant, or about 6 million people in the U.S.

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Narrated by Vicki Mabrey, a former broadcast journalist for 60 Minutes and ABC News Nightline, the new effort is intended to encourage patients to keep trying to find a treatment regimen that works, said Greg Panico, a Janssen R&D spokesman who helped produce the videos.

The connection for Janssen R&D, part of J&J's pharma business, is not only its long history of producing mental health treatments—such as the antipsychotic drug Risperdal—but also that it’s currently studying potential new therapies for treatment-resistant depression, Panico told FiercePharma.

The videos made their debut on Mental Health Day Oct. 10, and they continue the mission of the overall Healthy Minds Initiative introduced in 2011. Previous videos addressed the stigma of mental health problems overall, as well as specific conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s.

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The latest treatment-resistant depression videos are the first to include an actual patient, although Panico said Janssen will look to feature more real patients in upcoming work.

“We know as a mental health company that a key to good treatment is that it’s comprehensive and holistic. It’s not about taking a pill. Medication helps, but it really involves a holistic approach, just as Therese and [Janssen psychiatrist] Dr. [David] Hough talk about in the videos,” Panico said. “We want people to understand that if they’re suffering from a mental illness, the path to getting better is likely through a more full approach to treatment.”