Could this be an end to the antidepressant lottery?

A team of researchers are attempting to develop an online test that will determine the best antidepressant for an individual. In theory this could bring an end to the current hit and miss approach. Over 60% of patients see no significant impact during their initial 12 week treatment programme. Primarily this is due to prescribing the incorrect medication and/or the wrong dosage.

Could this be an end to the antidepressant lottery?

Today individuals often go through multiple types of medication in varying doses. We know that the earlier someone receives treatment the higher the chances of recovery. As such if this test proves successful, it could be a big breakthrough in the successful treatment of depression.

Wasted Time and Money

“There’s an awful lot of time and money wasted in people going through a 12-week treatment that doesn’t work, then another 12-week treatment that doesn’t work ad nauseam,” Dr Claire Gillan, at Trinity College Dublin said. “There will never be a point where algorithms are making these decisions in isolation; side effects have to be taken into account, for example. But this is a process of identifying treatment the clinician can use when debating a bunch of drugs – when they have no idea which will work through no fault of their own – for a particular patient.”

Gillan said: “The main thing clinicians and healthcare workers worry about is time. We wouldn’t want something that is going to add to their time [burden]. It could be something a patient can do [online] before coming in [to the surgery], bringing it into the GP as additional information. To someone with depression or someone who has suicidal thoughts, it is extremely important.”

She added: “If we can have some tools that will tell us the people who are more likely to respond then we can get some precision into the process of deciding what treatment is going to work best for what individual.

Ending the Antidepressant Lottery

“For a lot of people the first treatment doesn’t work. Then the second doesn’t work and the third doesn’t work. At what point is someone going to give up and drop out of trying to find a new treatment? So if we can cut all those times back, I think it will have a tremendous impact.”

Sophie Dix, director of research at MQ, the mental health charity funding the research, said: “This innovative research addresses one of the biggest challenges we face with mental health care. Millions turn to their doctor each year – but without precise tools to know which treatment is most suitable, many will be given treatments that don’t work for them. Through projects like Claire’s we can work to end this trial and error approach – and ensure effective treatments are delivered with certainty, clarity and compassion.”

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