Abandoning Personalization to Get to Precision in the Pharmacotherapy of Depression

World Psychiatry. 2016 Oct;15(3):228-235. doi: 10.1002/wps.20345.


Effectiveness studies and analyses of naturalistic cohorts demonstrate that many patients with major depressive disorder do not experience symptomatic remission with antidepressant treatments. In an effort to better match patients with effective treatments, numerous investigations of predictors or moderators of treatment response have been reported over the past five decades, including clinical features as well as biological measures. However, none of these have entered routine clinical practice; instead, clinicians typically personalize treatment on the basis of patient preferences as well as their own. Here, we review the reasons why it has been challenging to identify and deploy treatment-specific predictors of response, and suggest strategies that may be required to achieve true precision in the pharmacotherapy of depression. We emphasize the need for changes in how depression care is delivered, measured, and used to inform future practice.

Keywords: Antidepressants; biomarkers; major depression; personalized medicine; precision medicine; risk stratification; treatment matching.