Prescribing medications has always been somewhat of a trial and error process for healthcare professionals. Specific doses of specific drugs are generally provided based on average clinical outcomes experienced by the general population.

Yet any individual may have an unexpected response to a medication – sometimes due to a genetic predisposition.

If we knew the genetic sequence of most humans, could we improve pharmacological patient results?

Nobel Laureate and biochemist Paul Berg once said, “I start with the premise that all human disease is genetic.”

What Do We Know About the Human Genome?

Not long ago, the idea of mapping the entire human genome seemed impossible – the technology simply did not exist. Yet from 1990 to 2003, an international team of researchers created the Human Genome Project and this team was wildly successful in mapping the blueprint of our species.

Genetic advances have raced forward since that time.

What Is NGS?

Next-generation sequencing was developed as a much faster and even more accurate way of managing the complicated mixtures of nucleic acid fragments involved in gene sequencing. The Human Genome Project accomplished the impossible by decoding the entire human blueprint over the course of roughly a decade — NGS flexes its fingers with pride as it breezes through the same decoding of 3 billion genetic base pairs in only one day.

Today, using NGS in research applications has made it possible to find mutations in complex diseases.

How Can Psychiatry Benefit From NGS Results?

Pharmacogenetics refers to the investigation of DNA/RNA variations among different people regarding drug response and toxicity. Individual variation from one patient to another often results in increased or decreased efficacy of certain psychiatric drugs; it may also lead to unexpected toxicity.

Unfortunately, many mental health patients who do not undergo genetic testing experience hopelessness and despair when physicians go through various treatment regimens aiming for the best outcome.

Tests that use next-generation sequencing assist physicians with determining a suitable medication regimen at correct doses. Examining a person’s genetic blueprint can give visibility of how that person is likely to metabolize different types of psychiatric medications. Without this visibility, only trial and error will reveal patients who:

  1. Slowly break down and absorb any particular drug and suffer side effects
  2. Break down a medication too quickly and don’t experience the intended benefits

Accordingly, these tests can indicate cases in which dosages should be reduced to help avoid unwanted side effects or increased to prevent metabolizing the medication too quickly.

What Kinds of Conditions Can NGS Help Treat?

NGS helps physicians determine how likely it is that a patient will respond positively to the most common medications used to treat conditions such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia

When healthcare professionals use genetic testing to zero in on appropriate medications and doses for conditions like these, patients do not spend as much on various drugs due to less trial and error in their selection.

Considering that physicians who forgo genetic testing may put patients through several iterations of medication treatments, it is important to note that this process may take months or years. Prolonged use of this hit-and-miss approach may lead to cognitive or emotional decline, suicide, or dementia.

To explore the options and value of these genetic tests, please contact us.


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