It can be quite challenging when antidepressants are not working. But, the treatment of depression remains one of trial-and-error. When a patient with clinical depression is prescribed an antidepressant, it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to find out if the medication actually works for the patient, during which the patient can suffer from side effects of the medicine. If the medication is not effective, the process has to be repeated with a different medication until the correct one is identified. In everyday clinical practice, psychiatrists have little ability to predict which specific treatment will work best for a patient. “To be ill with depression any longer than necessary can be perilous,” said Dr. Helen Mayberg, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Emory University. “This is a serious illness and the prolonged suffering resulting from an ineffective treatment can have serious medical, personal and social consequences. Our goal is not just to get patients well, but to get them well as fast as possible.” Dr. Friedman, director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, writes eloquently about the hit-and-miss approach he has to use to identify an antidepressant that will work best for a patient. One patient, a successful professional in her late 30’s who had sought help for lifelong depression, was ready to call it quits after three months of trying out different classes of antidepressant – when she mentioned that her father had done well on a specific antidepressant. Within three weeks of trying the antidepressant that had worked for her father, the patient was feeling better and her symptoms improved markedly.
How genetics can help with finding your correct medication
Scientists have identified genetic variations that can potentially predict patients’ response to antidepressants explaining why some patients respond to some drugs but not to others.
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Learn more about role of pharmacogenetics in mental health here