Sun Life joins pharmacogenetics study to improve mental health treatment

By The IJ Staff | August 24 2017 11:30AM

Photo: Freepik

Sun Life has announced that it is partnering with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Assurex Health to join their IMPACT study, which is aimed at finding faster and more effective medication for mental health treatment.

In an Aug. 24 announcement, Sun Life explains that the IMPACT study uses saliva to determine how an individual will respond to mental health medications, an approach known as pharmacogenetics.

Groundbreaking approach

"Pharmacogenetics is a groundbreaking approach to mental health treatment," said Marilee Mark, Vice-President, Product and Integrated Health Solutions, Group Benefits, Sun Life Financial Canada. "We're pleased to offer our clients access to effective medications to help them manage their condition and return to work sooner."

The study is being led by Dr. James Kennedy of CAMH's Tanenbaum Centre for Pharmacogenetics, with the use of Assurex Health's GeneSight testing technology. Study participants can have their saliva analyzed to identify genetic variants that can influence how they respond to 33 of the most commonly used mental health medications.

From there, a report will be sent to the participant's physician that indicates which medication is expected to work best; which medication’s dosage levels may need adjusting before use; and those to be used with caution.

Severity of depression symptoms

"Nearly 9,000 people have participated in the IMPACT study, and those with depression experienced a 27 per cent reduction in the severity of depression symptoms after eight weeks of gene-guided treatment," said Dr. Kennedy. "Personalized medicine has great potential to support people in returning to work and participating in other meaningful activities in their lives, which is important in maintaining mental health."

Sun Life clients, who are on an approved mental health-related disability claim and taking medication as part of their treatment, will have the opportunity to join the study.

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