Enabling a more personalised approach to psychiatric treatment

By Caela De Beer

03 October 2023

Psychiatry has come a long way in its understanding and treatment of mental health disorders. Gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all approach to psychiatric medication. Today, we stand on the brink of a new era in mental healthcare, one where treatment is tailored to the individual’s genetics - all thanks to the emerging field of pharmacogenomics.

Next Biosciences offers a pharmacogenomics test, PharmaGene, which not only looks at drug-gene interactions, but also drug-drug, and drug-lifestyle interactions, taking personalised medicine to the next level.

What is pharmacogenomics?

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how an individual's genetic makeup influences their response to medications. It involves the analysis of a person's genetic profile to determine which drugs are likely to be most effective and which  cause adverse reactions. It is personalised medicine.

The challenge with trial and error

Traditionally, the treatment of mental health conditions has often involved a process of trial and error. A psychiatrist prescribes a medication, monitors the patient's response, and adjusts the medication or dosage, as necessary. Patients can endure weeks or even months of ineffective treatment, experiencing side effects along the way, before finding a suitable medication.

Did you know: Medication can also be influenced not only by other medications but also by your lifestyle?

For instance, your daily dose of grapefruit juice can counteract certain medications you are on.

The role of pharmacogenomics in psychiatry

Pharmacogenomics is changing this paradigm. Here is how:

  1. Personalised medication selection: Genetic testing can identify which psychiatric medications are most likely to work for an individual. This means that from the outset, a psychiatrist can choose a medication that is more likely to be effective.
  2. Optimised drug dosages: Genetic information can also guide the precise dosing of medications. This ensures that patients receive the right dosage to achieve therapeutic efficacy without risking side effects or inadequate treatment.
  3. Minimised adverse effects: By assessing an individual's genetic profile, psychiatrists can predict susceptibility to adverse reactions. This knowledge allows them to avoid medications that might cause severe side effects or worsen symptoms.
  4. Faster treatment response: Genetic factors can influence how quickly someone responds to a medication. With pharmacogenomics, psychiatrists can choose drugs more likely to lead to rapid and effective responses, which is particularly critical in acute psychiatric conditions.
  5. Reduced treatment resistance: For individuals who have not responded well to previous treatments, pharmacogenomics can help identify genetic factors contributing to treatment resistance. This knowledge guides psychiatrists in choosing alternative treatments that are more likely to be effective.

Looking ahead

As pharmacogenomics continues to advance, psychiatry is likely to see a dramatic shift towards personalised and effective treatment plans. The days of trial and error in mental health medication are numbered as we usher in an era where each prescription is precisely tailored to an individual's unique genetic makeup.

In conclusion: The Future of psychiatry

PharmaGene represents a revolutionary step forward in psychiatry. It promises to make mental health treatment more effective, efficient, and patient-centred. As research in this field progresses, we can expect better outcomes and an improved quality of life for individuals living with mental health conditions. The future of psychiatry is personalised, and pharmacogenomics is leading the way.