Some doctors like Dr. David H. Haase have begun using a different method to decide which antidepressant medications to prescribe to patients. Genetic testing is currently being used by doctors in an effort to reduce the trial and error method that is being used now to determine which antidepressants will work best for each individual.
Haase is considered to be on the vanguard of a newer and better methodology for personalized medicinal practices in that he uses genetic testing before prescribing various antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor. However, not all doctors are in agreement that his method works. First of all, the test is relatively new, having come to the market about a year ago.
“This test, I’m certain, has prevented in my practice at least one psychiatric hospitalization already,” said Haase, medical director of the MaxWell Clinic.
In order to conduct the test, Haase collects a sample of the patient’s saliva and then ships the sample off to have the genes analyzed. This is done to see how fast a medication will be absorbed by the patients. The test also shows how much weight they will gain and how the patient’s body will respond to different classes of antidepressants.
As for other doctors, not all of them agree with this practice. Dr. Karoly Mirnics, a professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, is skeptical of this practice and notes that various different variables have to be considered before a doctor can accurately predict how the patient’s genes will interact with different medicines and how they will affect the mind.
“The problem is that in psychiatry disorders, you don’t have simple genetics,” Mirnics said.
While genetic testing may sound like the cutting edge of prescription medications, it can do little for predicting exactly how an antidepressant will affect the patient in terms of side effects. Drugs like Paxil and Effexor are SSRIs that cause various adverse side effects which include birth defects (PPHN, oral clefts and neural tube defects) as well as aggressive and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Some researchers have even suggested that antidepressants are no better than placebos at treating major depressive disorders, which makes prescribing these medications at all seem pointless.