Do we live in a world that needs genetic tests for antidepressant medication efficacy? Let’s look at the statistics. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 2020, around 264 million people around the world of all ages suffer from depression.
The statistics speak for themselves
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 40 million Americans take antidepressants. Other researchers say that over 200 million pill bottles are being dispensed per annum. If each bottle holds 30 pills, that’s 6,078,000,000 pills!
The U.K.’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (NHS Digital) says that 70.9 million antidepressants were prescribed in 2018, compared with 36 million in 2008. The Covid-19 pandemic has also taken a toll on mental health. According to Research and Markets‘ latest study, the antidepressants market will likely jump from $14.3 billion in 2019 to around $28.6 billion in 2020.
As more and more of these pills are rolled out to the public, the pertinence of genetic testing for antidepressants is increasingly evident.
The antidepressant guessing game
As these statistics illustrate, many people worldwide are suffering from depression and are on the many available antidepressants. The most common are SSRI antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) – a group of drugs typically prescribed to illnesses related to serotonin deficiencies, such as major depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. TCA antidepressants (Tricyclic antidepressants) are also a group of medications prescribed by professionals who believe that an imbalance in neurotransmitters causes depression. But how do professionals know what to prescribe a patient?
In the same way that one headache pill may be more effective on one person than another, people can react differently to the same antidepressant. The same applies to psychiatric medications. What may work well for one patient may cause terrible side-effects in the next. To-date, antidepressants are typically prescribed based on symptoms and medical history. Unfortunately, finding the right medication – and dose – is often a drawn-out process of trial and error, during which patients suffer miserably.
The link between DNA testing and antidepressants
There have been remarkable advances in understanding human DNA and finding traits linked to many illnesses. A famous example of genotyping tests is the CYP2D6 test, which can help establish whether specific cancer medications, such as tamoxifen for breast cancer, will be more effective. Another example is the CYP2C9 test, which can help determine suitable blood thinner doses to lower the risk of adverse outcomes.
Scientists began to ask, “can genetic testing help doctors better prescribe antidepressants?” Research and studies are still ongoing, but while some are still questioning the relevance of antidepressant genetic testing, a handful of companies have made it a reality, selling medication efficacy tests that come in a kit and enabling DNA or pharmacogenomics testing at home.
The question “does genetic testing for antidepressants work?” is still asked. The answer is that a DNA test for antidepressants aims to help physicians and other specialists narrow down a patients’ antidepressant options, thereby getting them on a successful antidepressant regimen as soon as possible.
How does the test work?
A gene test for antidepressants, such as the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) test, looks for variations in the genes that regulate how quickly the body metabolizes a drug or whether a specific medicine might cause side-effects.
The body uses cytochrome P450 enzymes, including the CYP2D6 enzyme, to process numerous antidepressants and antipsychotic medications. Since genetic (inherited) traits cause disparities in these enzymes, medicines may affect each person differently. CYP450 tests can also detect differences in other enzymes, such as the CYP2C19 enzyme.
For instance, if the tests show that your body processes a drug slowly, it might accumulate and cause side-effects. While it may still be effective, you may need a lower dose. Alternatively, if tests show that a drug would quickly leave the body, it may have too little time to work correctly, and a higher amount might be appropriate.
CYP450 tests can also identify variations in other enzymes, such as the CYP2C19 enzyme. These tests (genotyping tests) are becoming increasingly common as doctors try to comprehend why antidepressants help some and not others. They are particularly relevant in cases where initial drug treatments for depression are unsuccessful.
The OmePsychMeds test by OmeCare covers offers a medication efficacy test for antidepressants and genetic testing for mental health medications. Users can easily send a cheek swab for antidepressant compatibility to OmeCare’s experts, who test your response to over 50 psychiatric drugs against the enzymes created by your body. You receive a report with a thorough breakdown of each fundamental facet of your genomic markers. The report offers antidepressant medication information that will help you and your care team find the best treatment plan for you more quickly.