WA psychiatrist and UWA head of psychiatry Professor Sean Hood and director of the Office of Population Health Genomics Kristen Nowak are part of a new $2.95 million project that will analyse a person’s genetic makeup to determine the best treatment for depression. The funding has been provided through the Commonwealth Government’s Medical Research Future Fund.

Professor Sean Hood

Professor Sean Hood

Prof Hood said about half of patients with moderate to severe depression did not see a positive result from the first medication prescribed, with as many as two-thirds failing to achieve long-term relief.

“It can often take weeks or months to get the right medication and dosage for a severely depressed patient and when the right medication is found it can also take weeks or months for it to take effect,” he said. “This is a risky time for severely depressed patients who might become really unwell and require hospitalisation.

“Many could abandon their medication altogether if it is not effective or worsens their condition, and some may even attempt suicide.”

“It’s difficult for doctors because they need to make important decisions about what antidepressants to prescribe, without having an understanding of how an individual’s chemistry might react to them.”

The study will enrol 550 people including 275 from WA. The WA study will run through Sir Charles Gairdner and Hollywood Private hospitals. Study participants will undergo a brain scan and provide a swab for a pharmacogenomic (PG) test, which shows the biochemical process that affects the way individuals break down medications.

Prof Hood said PG testing had been available for many years but until now it had been expensive and involved long turnaround times.

The study also involves HBF Health Limited, mental health group Meeting for Minds and the Perron Institute.

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