Pharmacogenomics (a blend of the words “pharmacology” and “genomics”) is the study of how an individual’s genetics relates to the effectiveness of certain drugs. We have the ability to test which psychiatric medications will most likely assist patients who suffer from depression or schizophrenia using these new genetic tests.
Without pharmacogenomics, the process of finding a medication that works for a patient is a process of trial and error. Because there are a wide array of effective medications, and no one medication is the answer for everyone, the prescribing decision initially includes using the statistics outlined in various studies to make an educated guess. Doctors prescribe a medication, then wait for a few weeks to see if it works. The studies are not exact enough to tell us in most cases how a given patient may interact with the medication. Some medication may not be effective enough or may cause undesirable side effects. Time is lost during this process of trial and error, and the patient continues to suffer from either the primary medical complaint, or from a side effect. Finally, through adjustments and trials, the right medication and dose is discovered. Until now, that long process has been an inevitable part of the treatment for depression and schizophrenia.
Pharmacogenomics is able to further define the likelihood of efficacy using new genetic markers that we were never able to utilize before. The testing can more precisely pinpoint the type of medication that will work for the patient. The time and frustration involved in the trial and error approach to finding the right medication is greatly reduced.