Should we be ‘pushing meds’? The implications of pharmacogenomics

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Abstract

Medication continues to be the most widely prescribed treatment in the NHS for mental health problems. It has been known for many years that individuals differ in the way they respond to a given pharmaceutical therapy, and one reason for this lies in the genetic variation between individuals. This paper recognizes the impact that pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics are having in the field of mental health. Variants in genes that code for the drug metabolizing enzymes in the liver have been found to influence the way in which these enzymes handle psychotropic medication. Individuals can be classified as poor, moderate or extensive metabolizers when standard regimes are used, and this can lead to huge differences in therapeutic effect and toxicity. There are now genotyping tests available which provide information on the individual's ability to metabolize psychotropic medication. One author provides an account of the effects of medication on her son's physical and psychological well-being. Genotyping provided evidence for his poor metabolism of psychotropic medication, and his life is now changing as he is being very gradually weaned off this medication. This emerging field of work has implications for the way in which practitioners consider medication adherence.

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