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Coverage Begins

A large health insurer has begun to cover some genetic tests to determine which psychiatric drugs might work best for a patient, NPR reports. It adds, though, that some experts say the evidence supporting such tests is not conclusive.

According to NPR, UnitedHealthcare, a large US health insurer, began covering tests like this at the beginning of the month, and Shawn Patrick O'Brien, the CEO of test developer Genomind, tells it that this move could serve as a "tipping point" to get even wider insurer coverage.

However, the National Institutes for Mental Health's Francis McMahon says though there are differences in how people metabolize drugs, those differences don't always correlate with how someone responds to those drugs. Additionally, NPR notes that the US Food and Drug Administration cautioned against changing treatments based on pharmacogenetic tests the agency has not approved.

The University of Toronto's Daniel Mueller, who is part of work comparing Myriad's GeneSight to another test develop by a Toronto-affiliated hospital, says many people misunderstand how the tests are used. "It's not an alternative intervention," Mueller tells NPR. "It's additional information."