VA research will bring precision medicine to mental health


If you’ve ever needed to switch medications – perhaps because of a side effect or because it just wasn’t working for you – you know that trial and error is often used to identify the best treatment. , especially for mental health issues.

This practice may soon be a thing of the past with recent advances in precision medicine, sometimes referred to as “personalized medicine”, in which disease prevention and medical treatment are tailored to an individual’s clinical, lifestyle and genetic information. an individual.

While precision medicine has been used in physical health care for some time, precision medicine for mental health care is in its infancy.

Historically, drugs have been prescribed for the “average” patient, someone of average age, weight, metabolism, and other traits. But this one-size-fits-all method doesn’t work for everyone, forcing prescribers to search for a drug that helps after the most commonly used drug fails.

Precision medicine determines which drugs are most likely to work

Precision medicine, however, takes into account the patient’s genes, environment, and lifestyle to determine which drugs are most likely to work.

For example, evidence has shown that a particular gene metabolizes commonly prescribed opioids. Identifying this gene can help shape decisions about medications, dosage, and resolution of adverse effects.

To move from the science lab to the doctor’s office, VA will conduct research into using a specific type of genetic test, called pharmacogenetics, to identify which painkillers might work better, which is especially important for veterans with disorders. related to the use of opioids. .

Transforming Research Findings into Clinical Care for Veterans

VA has the opportunity to look for brain and mental health biomarkers in veterans, thanks to Commander John Scott Hannon’s Veterans Mental Health Care Enhancement Act of 2019. VA’s Office of Research and Development and its Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention launched the Precision Mental Health initiative in April.

This initiative will promote coordinated research into biomarkers of mental health disorders, promote the sharing of anonymous research data, and help translate research findings into clinical care for Veterans.


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