NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s some good news for the more than 16 million people suffering with major depression in the United States.

A genetic test helps patients get on the right treatment much quicker.

Finding the right medication for depression is largely a trial-and-error process, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported. That’s partly because everyone metabolizes drugs differently and we all have different receptors on our cells for medications, so some drugs work better than others.

That’s where genetic testing comes in.

“In 2010, I went through a very traumatic personal experience that left me suicidal,” said patient Ronni Shapiro.

But Shapiro had two children who needed her, so she sought help. That became an exercise in frustration.

“Nine different medications,” Shapiro said, adding that it impacted her ability to sleep and caused her weight to fluctuate. “I wanted to jump out the window.”

The problem with this common trial-and-error approach is that even if the right medication is eventually found, the patient is still at risk.

“The longer that someone stays in depression, the more damage is done. Not just to our brains, but other physical health issues, cardiovascular functions changes,” said Dr. John Greden of the University of Michigan. “Profoundly, the suicide risk starts to increase. About 70-80 percent of all suicides, more than 40,000 a year now, are linked to critical depression.”

Now a genetic testing protocol can dramatically reduce that hit and miss approach. It’s called GeneSight: A simple cheek swab genetically determines whether you are metabolizing your meds in a way that makes them less effective, and also looks for drugs that are known to be more effective for your particular genetic profile.

A major study presented at the American Psychiatric Association meeting Monday showed its effectiveness.

“With GeneSight, we can actually get you on that right medication sooner, which actually improves remission rates by 50 percent, we actually improve response rates by 30 percent,” said Bryan Dechairo of Myriad Genetics.

Shapiro’s GeneSight suggested she needed to add a booster drug to her depression meds.

“Within seven days, I was back to being me, which is miraculous,” she said.

The gene study was used on moderate to severe depression, but the company says it will also be useful to determine the better medications for bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia.


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