Suffering from depression: Genetic Testing can help you choose the right drug

The WHO reports that 56 million Indians, approximately 4.5% of the Indian population, suffer from depression at this very moment, while another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders. Unlike in the West, there is limited talk therapy practiced in India and patients often rely on medications as the only means of therapy. Such patients are often found struggling through extended periods of depression, resorting to trial and error to identify the appropriate anti-depressant.

Sarah Ellis, reported in the NBC News, how she had to battle through depression and use a series of medications in an attempt to find the right one.  Ellis details her tryst with depression, made worse by side effects caused by some of the drugs like skin rashes. Other common side effects are nausea, weight gain or difficulty in sleeping. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that 135,587 adverse drug reactions may be caused due to anti-depressants.

After trying 23 drug combinations, Ellis’ psychiatrist recommended a genetic test to help identify why Ellis was not responding to the prescription drugs and what drugs could be effective. The blooming field of pharmacogenomics, how gene variations are associated with an individual’s response to drugs, is helping patients with depression avoid common side effects.  Ellis feels genetic testing was “definitely worth it” A study by Mayo Clinic showed that there was a 70% reduction in symptoms of depression when compared to treatment without genetic testing.

Gene variations in an individual are associated with response to drugs and may make them more susceptible to side effects. An understanding of the variations carried by the individual could help doctors prescribe appropriate medications.