Finding the right mental health medication can be a grueling challenge. With so many different medications to treat myriad symptoms, it can often take months or even years to find the most effective medication for a patient. With this in mind, researchers from the L.G. Skaggs Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Montana’s College of Health have conducted research on how genetic make-up could contribute to finding the right medication.
These researchers have identified genetic factors associated with different reactions from certain mental health medications. This practice of pharmacogenetics could save months of frustration for potential patients by identifying what medicines react best with their genetics and offering enhanced statistics on their rates of success.
The institute hopes to become Montana’s main hub for pharmacogenetics in metal health. It aims to amend the lack of access to adequate mental healthcare for rural communities throughout the state, even aiming to provide consultations via telehealth services. Students at the institute have been using the COVID-19 pandemic as a training tool in telehealth as they prepare for the launch of these new services.
Erica Woodahl, professor at UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy has been studying pharmacogenetics for nearly 15 years, and is now taking her research to the newly opened Institute, eager to see an expansion in the field. She says that a goal of the Institute will be to eventually include more professions from the College of Health, as well as integrating outside disciplines such as humanities to help develop a well-rounded approach to mental health.
“Pharmacogenetics is a field that is being implemented in the country, but mostly in large academic medical centers and in large metropolitan areas,” said Woodahl. “One of the first goals of this new institute is to offer this to Montanans who otherwise have been left out of this sort of revolution in health care.”
Later this year, the Institute hopes to begin issuing consultations to local healthcare providers that are interested in incorporating pharmacogenetics into their included services. Eventually they will be available throughout the state.