Pharmacogenomics Can Help Clinicians Determine Best Drug for Patients

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Pharmacogenetic testing, the process of examining an individual’s genetic makeup to help determine what medication will work best for them, is advancing in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, and with it, the promise of personalized medicine for mental health.

For example, research shows that less than 20% of people prescribed an antidepressant actually respond to the medication. As a result, many depressed individuals continue to suffer symptoms until, through the process of trial-and-error in trying different drugs, a patient finds one that brings relief.

However, by examining an individual’s unique biology and biochemical makeup, the hope is that clinicians will have a better idea of what might work for their patients.

Already, two pharmacogenetic tests are available for the treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Harmonyx’s ADHD test examines the effects of a patient’s genotype on the metabolism and efficacy of commonly prescribed medications, including methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana) and amphetamine salts (Adderall).  

AssureRx’s GeneSightRx ADHD test analyzes variations in three genes that influence how a patient might metabolize certain medications. All a clinician needs to do is get a DNA sample from a patient through a cheek swab. The company has a similar test for antidepressants.

The tests typically cost less than $100, and in return, a patient gets a list of drugs, in order of effectiveness.

Pharmacogenomics Can Help Clinicians Determine Best Drug for Patients
Pharmacogenomics Can Help Clinicians Determine Best Drug for Patients

Prescribing medications has long been a trial-and-error approach for nearly any medication you could take. That's been especially true in psychiatry, where there are dozens of medications that could be prescribed for common mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What if doctors had a better idea ahead of time which medications may work better for you than others, based upon your unique biology and biochemical makeup? They could then make prescribing decisions with a lot more knowledge, finding you a medication that would have a higher chance of working the first time.

This process is called pharmacogenetic testing, and is the process of examining a person's unique genetic structure to help determine what medication will metabolize best within that person's system.

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