The Use of Genetic Testing to Help Patients with Acute Depression

According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, pharmacogenomic testing can assist doctors in avoiding prescribing antidepressants that can have unfavourable side effects. The results appeared in July 2022 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the findings of the study, patients who received genetic testing had better outcomes than individuals receiving standard therapy, according to the study. The genetic testing group saw a reduction in depressive symptoms over the course of 24 weeks of therapy, with a peak effect at 12 weeks. Each study participant suffered from acute depression, which is medically referred to as major depressive disorder.

What is pharmacogenomic testing?

Pharmacogenomic testing is a process that uses information about a person’s genes to help guide drug therapy. The goal of pharmacogenomic testing is to improve drug safety and efficacy by personalizing medication based on an individual’s genetic makeup.

Pharmacogenomic testing has so far been mainly used as a tool for individualised medicine selection to treat individuals with illnesses including cancer and heart disease. This study is therefore of great interest because it expands the scope into the mental health domain, looking at new potential applications of this technology.

What is major depressive disorder?

Major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression or unipolar depression, is a mental illness characterized by persistent depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. Major depressive disorder is a disabling condition that can lead to suicide.

The most common symptoms of major depressive disorder include, but are not limited to –

  • depressed mood
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • sleep disturbances
  • fatigue
  • low energy
  • poor concentration
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • thoughts of death or suicide

According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

How can pharmacogenomic testing help patients with major depressive disorder?

Pharmacogenomic testing can help doctors choose the antidepressant medication that is most likely to be effective for a particular patient, and to avoid prescribing medications that may cause adverse side effects.

The main findings of the study were that patients whose medicines were selected on the basis of their pharmacogenetic test responded more quickly. At the 12 week mark these patients exhibited a higher improvement in remission, response, and symptom improvement. The difference between the the test and the control groups reduced by the 24 week mark, which leads the researchers to surmise that the main advantage of the genetic testing and matching is in the speed of recovery.

Final thoughts about using genetic testing to personalise treatment for acute depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that can have a profound impact on an individual’s quality of life. The findings of this study suggest that pharmacogenomic testing may offer a promising new approach to treatment, by helping doctors choose the most effective medication for each individual patient. While further research is needed to confirm these findings, the potential benefits of this technology warrant further exploration.

However if you or someone you know is suffering from depression, it is important to seek professional help. With or without genetic testing, depression is a treatable condition, and there are many effective treatments available. If you are struggling, please reach out for help.

Important information for anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please act immediately. Contact a mental health professional or call a suicide hotline in your area.

In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources.

You can call the Lifeline at +1 800 273 8255. They also have a chat function on their website that you can use if you do not feel like talking.

In Canada, the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention provides resources and support to those affected by suicide.

In the United Kingdom you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline or call them on 0800 689 5652.

If you are in another country, please visit this page for a list of international suicide hotlines.

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