Why the Mental Health Crisis Calls for a Closer Look at Pharmacogenomics

Leveraging precision medicine in mental health care

A drug capsule broken open releasing its contents toward a human brain

There’s no singular solution for solving the mental health crisis gripping the U.S. However, as prescription drug use for treating mental health conditions continues to rise, pharmacogenomics (PGx) is emerging as a formidable tool in the fight. The use of pharmacogenomics in treating mental illness can not only improve patient health but also drive bottom-line benefits for payers.

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how a person’s DNA impacts his or her response to medication. While new developments in pharmacogenomics hold promise throughout the healthcare spectrum, the topic of pharmacogenomics and mental illness is particularly salient. Approximately 60 FDA-approved medications used to treat mental health concerns are impacted by genetics. These drug-gene interactions can:

  • Affect efficacy
  • Spur adverse drug events
  • If left unknown, can end up sending patients and providers down a time-consuming and expensive path before landing on an appropriate medication regimen

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adverse drug events in outpatient settings account for 3.5 million physician office visits, 1 million ER visits, and 125,000 hospital admissions annually. In fact, treating adverse drug events in the U.S. may cost up to $30.1 billion every year.

What’s more, a recent study found an astonishing 94 percent of older Americans were prescribed a medication that increased their risk of falling, which only helps fuel the $50 billion in annual spending related to older Americans’ fall injuries.

It’s easy to see how the cost of getting medications wrong reverberates through the healthcare service model and echoes back as wasted resources, time, and poor health.

On top of the potential for adverse drug events, physicians well know that it typically takes six to eight weeks to determine if a new medication is truly effective for an individual. Multiply that by several rounds to get the drug and dosage just right, and the process only gets more painful … and costly.

The time has come to put trial-and-error prescribing to bed, and introduce precision medicine in mental health care.

Using pharmacogenomics to treat mental illness offers physicians a very viable avenue to help patients fast-forward to better health, rather than prolong the struggle. Having clear view of which medications are best suited for any individual based on genetic and non-genetic factors is the crux of precision medicine in mental health care, and has the immense potential to enable safer, smarter healthcare.

Advances in science and technology regarding the clinical application of pharmacogenomicshave laid a solid foundation as implementation among payers and providers increases globally. Now, to tackle the mental health epidemic, it’s time pharmacogenomics moves from the sidelines to center stage.

Interested in learning more about pharmacogenomics and mental illness? Contact us or connect with Scott directly on LinkedIn.

Last Updated: May 8, 2023