A study from the University of British Columbia suggests that implementing pharmacogenomic testing to determine the best antidepressant for patients with moderate-to-severe depression could potentially lead to substantive health system savings and improve patient outcomes. This study, published in the CMAJ, Canadian Medical Association Journal, indicates that in British Columbia alone, pharmacogenomic testing could save an estimated $956 million over 20 years. The aim of pharmacogenomics is to match patients with the appropriate treatment plan by looking into how gene variations affect one’s response to medications. This is done in hopes of finding the best medication and dosing that is likely to be more effective and cause fewer side effects for each individual. This testing uses genetic information that is usually obtained using a cheek swab, blood test, or saliva sample. The findings of this study show that the results are not only cost-effective but also may increase remission rates and increase one's quality of life while also reducing hospitalization rates and intensive treatments. The researchers of this study worked with patient partners, clinicians, and healthy system and government partners in order to develop a simulation model that mimics the experience of majorly depressed patients.
The results of this model simulation showed that this testing would result in 37% fewer patients experiencing treatment-refractory depression, where the patients' depression remains unaffected despite several types of treatment. The results of implementing pharmacogenomic testing also showed that patients experience 15% more time without symptoms of depression which results in an anticipated “1,869 fewer deaths and 21,346 fewer hospital admissions over 20 years. This study states that depression is one of the largest public health issues as 1 in 10 Canadians will experience major depression at some point in their lives. Though there are more than 35 antidepressant medications available, over half of patients don’t respond to the medication they are prescribed, and about 27% experience adverse effects. Due to the statistical increase in mental health illnesses over the past 10 years, I believe that the urgency and importance of this study increases. Though it is difficult to prescribe the most effective medication on the first try, pharmacogenomic testing could narrow the medication selection and help physicians make a more informed treatment decision, and reduce the lengthy process of trial and error. Not only does it help improve the patients' quality of life more quickly but it can also save resources and money.