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So, is this the first step down a bold path to personalized medicine, or just a rush to exploit the national fear and uncertainty about side effects of antidepressants?
It's a little bit of both, and that's a good thing.
NeuroMark is aware the such a fast release is unusual—the study has yet to be replicated—and it is inviting doctors and patients to contribute to a database of self-described outcomes to extend the testing period for efficacy even though it is making the test available right away. Participants' identities will be protected, and participating doctors and patients will have access to new data as it becomes available. This is the first nationwide post-release data gathering operation of its kind.
At the same time, the identification of these genetic markers, and the quick transition into available medical technology is encouraging. Earlier this summer, The New York Times ran an article heralding the arrival of personalized medication for depression, which seems to be coming to pass even sooner than anticipated, in this small area, at least.
"We think this test represents the leading edge of personalized medicine," CEO Kim Bechthold. And she's right. Prescriptions based on the results of a cheek swab for suspect genes does sound awfully futuristic. Companies rushing to market with tests for the kinds of conditions and circumstande that make headlines will be a regular feature of the landscape.
People are bound to make medical decisions based on what they read in the paper more and more often in the future. And sometimes they'll make the wrong decisions, as the data suggest many parents did in the wake of the scare about teens and antidepressants in 2004. "Ripped from the headlines" marketing for medical tests may make some doctors uncomfortable, but for patients trying to make right decision with limited information, a speedy turnaround from lab to pharmacy good news.
Katherine Mangu-Ward is an associate editor of reason.