Ask an Expert: Can a DNA Test Help Me Choose an Antidepressant?

By Michael Genovese 04/18/16

Our expert answers a question about whether a DNA test can help find the right antidepressant prescription for you.

Ask an Expert: Can a DNA Test Help Me Choose an Antidepressant?

Dear Expert,

How do I know what the right antidepressant medication for me would be? Is there any genetic testing that could be done to determine this? If not, are there other tests available? Otherwise, how would my doctor know which of the many to prescribe?

Dr. Michael Genovese: Yes, there are a number of tests available to guide your physician’s decision of which medication to prescribe. Pharmacogenomics is defined as the study of how a person’s individual DNA affects their response to medications. This technology is currently available to all clinicians and is as simple as collecting a sample, sending it to a laboratory, and within a matter of days receiving a clinically actionable report to better inform appropriate medication selection. 

With pharmacogenomics, clinicians have an objective tool that can be used in concert with other factors known to influence medication selection in order to better identify the “right” medication for each individual. Pharmacogenomics is an additional tool in clinicians’ toolboxes to provide personalized medication selection for each individual. It’s not a magic bullet, but provides meaningful data to help us render the most effective care. As a matter of course, I use an assay called Genesight, which has a wealth of clinical trial data supporting its clinical value. It is a painless procedure to collect a small sample of DNA from the inside of a patient’s cheek on a cotton swab, which is then analyzed in a lab. The results provide evidence about the patient’s ability to metabolize medicine, how a medicine will behave at important receptor sites on brain cells, and which medications will be more likely to create undesirable side effects based upon the individual’s genetic makeup.

If you are interested, you should ask your doctor about this testing. It is readily available and can be of great assistance in finding an effective medicine quickly, avoiding a trial and error approach.

Michael Genovese is the Chief Medical Officer of Sierra Tucson, a world leader in integrative health. Full Bio.

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