Depression is a mood disorder that affects feelings, thoughts, and behavior and leads to a variety of emotional and physical illnesses. If left untreated, depression significantly reduces quality of life and may ultimately result in premature death from medical conditions or suicide. The main treatments for depression are drugs that modulate the levels of serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine by either inhibiting the reuptake of these signaling substances (“reuptake inhibitors”) or by influencing their degradation.
A key side effect of the currently available antidepressants is their significant impact on male sexual function (desire-arousal-excitement-orgasm). In a survey, it was observed that 41.7 % of men discontinued psychiatric medications due to perceived sexual side effects (Rosenberg KP et al “A survey of sexual side effects among severely mentally ill patients taking psychotropic medications: impact on compliance”, J. Sex Marital Ther. 2003;29(4):289-96). Between 14 and 35 % of young men experience ED. The causes of ED can be caused by psychological, neurological, or lifestyle issues. ED can also be the result of side effects of specific medications (including some antidepressants), performance anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders.
Major depressive disorder is one of the main causes of disability worldwide due to its high prevalence and associated impairments. Lifetime prevalence is 14.3 % in high-income countries. The Global Burden of Disease study showed a 37.5 % burden increase due to major depressive disorder from 1990 to 2010, and major depressive disorder is the second leading cause of Disability Adjusted life years in 2020. About 13 % of all Americans take anti-depression medication summing up to more than 23 million prescriptions per year (National Center for Health Statistics). The global revenue for antidepressants is forecasted to reach $18 bn in 2020. The biggest players, accounting for more than 60% of the antidepressant drugs sold, are Pfizer, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and H. Lundbeck A/S – all facing a significant patent cliff over the next few years, with revenues projected to be hit hard by generics and biosimilars. All current marketed drugs have to varying degree been associated with erectile dysfunction emphasising the need to develop an attractive and superior alternative.