Is Pharmacogenomics The Future of Mental Health Medication Management?

Have you ever been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety disorder and prescribed medication treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)? If yes, then you might be aware of the long process of trying out different dosages and medications to find the most effective one for you. The trial-and-error approach can take weeks, if not months, before finding the right medication and dosage, which can be frustrating for patients. However, there is a more personalized approach to treating mental health conditions – pharmacogenetic testing.

When we talk about health, physical well-being often takes the center stage. We use technology like smartphones, smartwatches, and fitness trackers to track progress and improve physical health. However, we tend to neglect mental health, which is equally important in leading a fulfilling life. Good mental health involves emotional well-being, stress management, social connections, and self-esteem. It is natural to have ups and downs in our mental health, but the goal is to live life to the fullest potential despite challenges.

Treating mental health conditions is a complex task, and medication is one of the many options available. However, there is great variability in patients’ drug tolerance and responsiveness to different doses, making it challenging to find an effective medication. Healthcare providers use various factors such as age, weight, kidney, and liver function to determine appropriate doses. Still, there is a risk of adverse side effects and delayed symptom relief.

Pharmacogenetic testing is a more personalized approach to prescribing medication for mental health conditions by matching a drug’s pharmacological profile to a patient’s genetic profile, in an effort to help identify the optimal prescription. Pharmacogenetic testing can inform physicians about drug absorption rates, binding efficacy, and breakdown rates. This information can help to determine whether a patient will tolerate a given drug and provide guidance regarding which drugs will be most effective in the treatment and their optimal dose.

Pharmacogenetics involves genetic profiling of a specific class of genes within the cytochrome P450 family (CYPs). These genes code for a series of enzymes involved in the metabolism of various dietary nutrients, drugs, and steroids. CYPs play a central role in medicine due to their essential functions of hormone synthesis and breakdown, vitamin D metabolism, and cholesterol synthesis. CYPs are responsible for the metabolism of 75% of drugs, involving the bioactivation or deactivation of drugs to signal for excretion.

Individuals show a great degree of variability in the abundance and effectiveness of these enzymes, resulting in the interindividual differences seen in drug tolerance and efficacy. Due to their significant involvement in many aspects of drug metabolism, CYPs are a valuable source of information for predicting a patient’s individual response to various drugs, identifying the most effective medication strategies, and avoiding adverse side effects altogether.

Pharmacogenetic testing has a particularly high value in the field of mental health, where traditional pharmaceutical interventions have often had limited success. With over 40 available antidepressant medications, a more personalized approach is crucial in improving treatment outcomes and reducing the prevalence of unwanted side effects. In cases of major depressive disorder, which affects 350 million people globally, pharmacogenetics can quickly identify optimal drugs and dosing ranges, lowering the prevalence of undesired side effects and improving recovery.

Pharmacogenetic testing is available at Preventous. If you are interested in exploring this option with your Physician, you can reach out to our Client Care team and book an appointment to discuss it.

Dr. Rohan Bissoondath,
Medical Director

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