Mental Health Policy and Psychotropic Drugs


Address correspondence to: Richard G. Frank, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, 180 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 (e-mail:


The pace of innovation in psychotropic drugs has been rapid over the past 15 years. There also have been unprecedented increases in spending on prescription drugs generally and psychotropic medications specifically. Psychotropic medications are playing a more central role in treatment. They also are receiving close scrutiny from health insurers, state budget makers, and ordinary citizens. Public policy actions regarding prescription drugs have the potential to significantly affect clinical care for mental disorders, the costs of this care to individuals and society at large, and the prospects for future scientific advances. This article outlines the policy issues related to psychotropic drugs with respect to their role in determining access to mental health treatment and the cost and quality of mental health care.