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Personalized Psychiatry

Psychiatrists are beginning to turn to gene tests to help guide treatment choices for their patients, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Right now, it notes that finding the right medication for people with depression can take trial and error, and companies are developing genetic tests to take some guesswork out of the equation. For instance, the Journal writes that Assurex Health, a subsidiary of Myriad Genetics, has developed a test called GeneSight that analyzes about a dozen genes to gauge how patients will metabolize and react to some 50 medications.

According to the Journal, a comparison of patients who were prescribed drugs after taking the test versus those prescribed drugs without taking the test found that those who were given drugs based on their genetic profiles had better responses. It "provides recommendations," Charles Conway from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis notes. "It doesn't say: 'Give this drug only.' It says: 'You have a range of choices, which you will [make] based on your clinical judgment.'"

Alan Schatzberg, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, though, tells the Journal that while the test "has some value," it doesn't say which drug to use. "What the field really wants is a test that tells me which specific drug I should put my patient on," he says.