"Antipsychotics and antidepressants have been some of the most profitable agents for companies over the last two decades," said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and one of the authors.
"But that doesn't mean they're effective. What it means is that they sell and they can be marketed."
In the last five decades, more than 20 antipsychotics and 30 antidepressants have been marketed with over $25 billion in sales in the U.S. in 2011 alone, Insel said.
The drugs are descended from serendipitous discoveries such as the mood stabilizing effects of lithium in 1949, said Steven Hyman of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and the author of the second paper.
"The central problem is clear: Neither vast unmet medical need, nor large and growing markets, nor concerted sales campaigns that attempt to recast 'me-too drugs' as innovative can illuminate a path across very difficult scientific terrain," Hyman wrote.