It’s All in the Genes: Improving Depression and Anxiety Treatment with PGx Testing

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Holly Magliochetti

Genetics Institute of America

Genetics Institute of America (GIA) is a national laboratory dedicated to heightening the awareness of early intervention and genetic screening to promote the longevity and quality of life outcomes.  


It’s All in the Genes:

Improving Depression and Anxiety Treatment with PGx Testing

DELRAY BEACH, FL – Approximately 16 million Americans suffer from moderate or severe depression, and the costs associated with Major Depressive Disorder exceed $210 billion annually. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed but often have low initial success rates. Similarly, anxiety disorders, which affect around 40 million adults in the US, are frequently comorbid with depression and have limited treatment response rates. Current prescribing practices rely on trial-and-error methods, leading to suboptimal outcomes.

Pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing offers a more personalized approach to psychiatric pharmacotherapy by detecting genetic factors that influence drug response and side effects. These associations are well-supported in scientific literature and professional guidelines. Previous studies have shown promising results in using pharmacogenetic testing for depression treatment, although the sample sizes and patient populations were limited.

A recent study investigated the use of pharmacogenetic testing in the treatment of anxiety and depression. The goal was to assess the clinical impact of pharmacogenetic testing in guiding medication management for patients with anxiety and depression. A total of 685 patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety were enrolled in the study. In the experimental group, clinicians received a test report containing medication management recommendations based on the genetic analysis. The control group received standard care without the guidance of the test. Over a 12-week period, patients’ depression and anxiety symptoms were evaluated using validated rating scales. The study aimed to compare the therapeutic outcomes between the pharmacogenetic-guided treatment in the experimental group and the standard care in the control group. In addition to monitoring symptom improvement, the study also recorded any adverse drug events experienced by the participants. This comprehensive assessment aimed to determine whether pharmacogenetic testing could lead to better treatment response and fewer adverse effects compared to standard care.

In terms of depression outcomes, the experimental group showed higher remission rates and response rates compared to the control group at 8 and 12 weeks. For anxiety outcomes, the test-guided therapy resulted in a reduction in anxiety symptoms compared to the control group. Medication changes were more frequent in the experimental group, aligned with report recommendations, and ultimately led to better efficacy.

The results of this study have the potential to provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of pharmacogenetic testing in guiding the treatment of anxiety and depression. By personalizing medication management based on genetic factors, this approach may lead to improved outcomes for patients with these mental health conditions.

  1. Bradley P, Shiekh M, Mehra V, et al. Improved efficacy with targeted pharmacogenetic-guided treatment of patients with depression and anxiety: A randomized clinical trial demonstrating clinical utility. J Psychiatr Res. 2018;96:100-107. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.09.024
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