Medications for mental health can take time to show effectiveness and can have side effects.

There are many safe and effective medications used to treat mental health conditions but getting on the right medication can be a trial-and-error process, according to Alex Carducci, product director for Manulife Group Benefits’ Pharmacy Benefits.

“These prescriptions can take five to six weeks to kick in,” Carducci said. “During that time members can experience side effects, feel more unwell, which can potentially lead to presentism, absenteeism and eventual disability.”

Carducci said a simple saliva test can help members avoid that trial-and-error process with these prescriptions.

“Pharmacogenetic testing, in its simplest form, is a saliva test that tells us which medications a member is more likely to get benefit from with less risk of causing side effects,” Carducci said. “Personalized medicine helps us get to the right drug more often and reduces the chances of trying 3 or 4 different drugs.”

Carducci said Manulife’s personalized medicine program goes beyond the test to give members pharmacist support.

“We wrapped a pharmacist care program around the testing,” Carducci said. “We have personalized pharmacist input about the test results, and they discuss this with the member and the physician to potentially get them to the best drug possible.”

Manulife’s pilot of the program showed promising results, Carducci said.

“Since the program launched, 41% of prescribers changed the prescribed medication, and that had a positive impact on member health,” Carducci said. “87% of members that had a change in medication reported an early improvement in symptoms.”

Manulife launched the optional program in spring of 2021.

Check this page for more information on how Manulife’s Personalized Medicine program works and who it can help.

 

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