The Veterans Affairs Health System is testing out whether folding in genetic testing can help better prescribe drugs for people with depression, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
It is enrolling doctors in the system and their patients who haven't responded well to treatment for depression into its study, the Chronicle adds. As part of the study, the patients undergo testing by Myriad Genetics of 12 genes linked to the metabolism of mood stabilizers and antidepressants like Prozac that are prescribed to treat depression. Half the patients will receive treatment based an algorithm that matches patients' genetic profiles to drug options, while the other half will receive treatment based on their doctor's clinical judgment, though the doctors will received the results six months down the line.
"Psychiatric medication uses a little bit of guesswork," Steven Batki, co-principal investigator for the San Francisco VA study site, tells the Chronicle. "If you're seeing 10 different people with depression, you might start them all out on Prozac but maybe only a third will respond. Up until now, psychiatrists are using their best clinical judgment without clear scientific reasons for picking one antidepressant over another, other than different side effects."
The Chronicle adds that about a quarter of returning veterans experience depression, as compared to 8 percent of the wider US adult population.