Researchers Develop a Genetic Test to Identify the Most Effective Antidepressant for Each Patient

Major depression is one of the biggest public health burdens. A Canadian study highlights the benefits of pharmacogenomic testing (a type of genetic testing) to identify the right antidepressant for each patient, which could save a lot of time… and money.

Depressed Person

Depressed Person

Finding the right antidepressant can be difficult

Although there are a large number of antidepressants on the market, more than half of patients suffering from major depression do not respond well to the antidepressant they were initially prescribed and report side effects.

Read Also: Ketamine Could Do Wonders to Treatment-Resistant Depression in Just Hours, Study Shows

Previous studies have shown that genetic factors are involved in the variation in patients’ responses to these treatments. New research from the University of British Columbia shows that a pharmacogenomic test – a special type of genetic test – can determine the best antidepressant for patients suffering from moderate to severe depression, improving their quality of life and generating significant savings for the healthcare system.

“Pharmacogenomic tests identify variations in genes that affect the metabolism of antidepressants. They can improve the efficacy and reduce the side effects of pharmacotherapy for major depressive disorder,” write the authors in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Read Also: Struggling with Ineffective Antidepressants? A Recent Study Reveals a Possible Cause and Hints at Future Treatment Paths

The Study

For the study, the researchers developed a model that compares the course of treatment of more than 194,000 adults suffering from major depression with or without pharmacogenomic testing. After 20 years of follow-up, the model showed that this type of test would reduce the number of antidepressant-resistant patients by 37% (depression does not improve despite trying various treatments). By targeting better treatment, pharmacogenomic testing will also allow patients to have fewer symptoms of depression, resulting in an expected reduction of 1,869 deaths and 21,346 hospitalizations over 20 years.


Ghanbarian, S., Wong, G. W. K., Bunka, M., Edwards, L., Cressman, S., Conte, T., Price, M., Schuetz, C., Riches, L., Landry, G., Erickson, D., McGrail, K., Peterson, S., Vijh, R., Hoens, A. M., Austin, J., & Bryan, S. (2023). Cost-effectiveness of pharmacogenomic-guided treatment for major depression. CMAJ, 195(44), E1499-E1508.



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