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

Leveraging precision medicine for smarter, safer mental health care

There’s no silver bullet 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 – capable of not only improving patient health but also driving bottom-line benefits for payers.

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

Rather than prolonging the struggle for patients with mental health or other serious health conditions, pharmacogenomics offers physicians a very viable avenue to help patients fast-forward to better health. Having a clear view of which medications are best suited for any individual based on genetic and non-genetic factors is the crux of precision prescribing and has the immense potential to enable safer, smarter healthcare.

In recent years, advances in science and technology, particularly regarding the clinical application of pharmacogenomics, have laid a solid foundation as implementation among payers and providers picks up globally. Now, to tackle the mental health epidemic, it’s time pharmacogenomics moves from the sidelines to center stage.

Interested in learning more? Contact us or connect with Scott directly on LinkedIn.

Last Updated: October 25, 2021