Merck's New Melancholy Baby

Early word on the latest antidepressant is creating a stir

For a long time, it looked like a blind alley. Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Warner-Lambert, and others had been trying for years to come up with painkillers that block the action of Substance P, a neurotransmitter that conveys pain messages. The hope was that by blocking the receptor on a cell's surface where Substance P attaches, they could block the message and stop the pain. But none of the compounds tested so far has delivered much relief.

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