Mental Health Awareness Day was on 10 October and US Mental Illness Week took place from 6-12 October. Mental Health is a growing area of awareness, of which Myogenes is also contributing in it’s research of genetic medicine. Here we look at pharmacogenomics and how it could help to transform the treatment of mental illness around the world.
Pharmacogenomics – What does it mean?
Pharmacogenomics may not be a word that you’re familiar with but it is likely to become an increasingly familiar concept as medical treatment advances. The word is a derivation of two words “pharmacology” (the science of drugs) and “genomics” (the study of genes and their function).
Pharmacogenomics means the study of how genes affect the way someone responds to drugs and is an important field of science as not everyone responds to drugs in the same way.
A person’s genes will affect how they metabolise certain drugs – for example, someone with a slower metabolism might need a smaller dose as they metabolise the drug more slowly.
Conventional approaches to prescribing
Up until now, finding the right the drug or combination of drugs that would be optimal for individual patients was a process of trial and error for doctors. The result was uncertainty.
It was not possible to predict which drugs would work and which would not, or to identify the optimum dosage. It was also impossible to tell whether an individual patient would experience adverse side-effects from a particular drug. And, until the correct drug and dosage has been identified, the patient may experience a worsening of symptoms or, at best, no improvement in their symptoms, which may delay the recovery period.
Genetic testing for mental health
Pharmacogenomics can’t be used for every type of illness but one area where it is proving to be an effective aid to prescribing is in the treatment of mental health conditions.
There are more than 50 psychiatric medications available for mental health disorders. A delay in finding the right treatment can lead to a worsening of symptoms for patients with certain conditions and may place the individual at risk, particularly if they are prone to suicidal thoughts.
Myogenes is at the forefront of personalised health and genetic testing in the UK and works alongside doctors and genetic laboratories to support the prescribing of psychiatric drugs.
Genomind Assay is its flagship genetic test, designed to help doctors to optimise treatment decisions for people with mental health conditions. Using a cheek swab it analyses key genes that have been identified as having variations that can assist in determining treatment decisions.
The test can help to guide drug prescribing for a wide range of mental health conditions, including: depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD and autism.
Genetic testing – how it works
Clinical evidence shows that using a pharmacogenetic assay results in better responses to treatment, helping patients to feel better faster and reducing healthcare cost as drug prescribing is more targeted.
In essence, it matches the medication to a person’s DNA, hence the description “precision” or “personalised medicine”.
Instead of doctors diagnosing a drug used to treat a particular condition and then waiting to see if the patient responds favourably, genetic testing enables the doctor to fast-track this process and prescribe a drug that is the best match genetically to the individual patient and will produce the most effective results.
More effective treatment of mental health conditions could have significant implications based on the prevalence of mental health problems worldwide:
- Major depression is believed to be the second leading cause of disability in the world.
- One in six people is estimated to have experienced a common mental health problem in any one week.
- In 2013 there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK, with women almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.
Genetic testing for mental health treatment is only available through a GP, clinician or psychiatrist as a medical professional is required to communicate the results to the patient and explain the options following.
For more information about our genetic tests for mental health conditions, contact the team who are happy to answer your questions.