Finding the right medicine to treat mental illness is not just emotionally taxing – it can be economically draining.
While almost 20 million Americans suffer from depression, less than half receive specialized care. As a result, many health care providers employ a “trial and error” methodology where they prescribe different medications or combinations of medications to determine what will work best for a patient. This can result in frustration, unused medicine and wasted money.
A survey found that 30 to 40 percent of people don’t respond well to the first anti-depressant they’re prescribed. Many end up trying five to six medications without a significant reduction in symptoms, and for about 20 to 30 percent, nothing seems to work.
Experts say far too many adults with major depressive disorder receive no treatment for long periods of time, while those with mild depression are overmedicated. In fact, studies show as many as two-thirds of all antidepressant prescriptions are written for patients who aren’t severely depressed.
While U.S. employers pay $26 billion per year in depression treatment, that doesn’t reflect patient costs—prescription drug co-payments and out-of-pocket psychotherapy costs. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, patients bear about 16 percent of the total costs of mental health treatment. Nearly half of psychiatrists don’t accept private insurance, which means higher out-of-pocket expenses. A single, unsubsidized psychotherapy session can range from about $75 on the low end to as high as $250.
Even when a person is in active treatment, it is important to devise a maintenance plan to help prevent recurrence of symptoms. This typically includes antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or both. Many patients suffer relapses due to various factors, such as not adhering to treatment, stopping medications due to side effects, negative thoughts, and unavoidable life traumas.
How Genetic Testing Reduces Costs
Genes influence a person’s response to medications. This in part explains why one drug can be so effective for one patient with severe depression but not work for others.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists known genetic factors on package inserts for several dozen medication used for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Research shows 70 percent of patients who failed at least one medication are currently taking a medication that is a poor match genetically.
Pharmacogenomic testing like Assurex Health’s GeneSight® Psychotropic test can help psychiatrists work out a patient’s treatment—both in terms of selecting the right medication and the right dosing strategy depending on whether a patient is a slower or poor metabolizer, or rapid metabolizer.
Genetic Testing In the Real World
In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Mandy told of struggling with feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy since childhood. At 24, she was diagnosed with dysthymia, a mild but stubborn form of depression. Finding the right antidepressant is a complex process that can take months or even years.
Mandy’s psychiatrist ordered three genetic tests including GeneSight Psychotropic, GeneSight ADHD, and GeneSight MTHFR, which tests the ability to process folate, a B vitamin. It was discovered Mandy had a single mutation in the MTHFR gene which can lead to lower folate levels. A deficiency in folate is a known risk factor for depression.”
Mandy was prescribed prescription folate which helped her better respond to widely prescribed antidepressant drug Wellbutrin.
Multiple studies have shown genetic testing saves patients on average $2,500 per year in prescription costs and reduced doctor and emergency room visits. A recent economic utility study showed GeneSight Psychotropic trimmed annual treatment costs by $3,988 per person.
In Mandy’s case, her family’s insurance plan covered all costs except $6.00 for testing. Today she is doing well and thriving, thanks in good part to genetic testing.
Genetic testing can eliminate some of the time, cost and frustration of finding the right kind and dosage of medicine. To find out more, take the next step here.