How can pharmacists help?

We would be very grateful if pharmacists would read this, and consider whether they would be open to helping with important research on antidepressants.

Below, we provide an overview of the research, and outline both why and how pharmacists could be of great help.

Overview of the Research

In mental health, it’s not that we lack effective treatments, it’s that certain treatments will only work for certain people. Without tools that can tell us what treatment is right for what person, mental health practitioners are forced to prescribe a first-line treatment and adopt a wait-and-see approach. Patients who do not benefit after several weeks of treatment are moved to a second-line treatment and clinicians must wait and see again. The associated individual and societal burden is enormous.

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*Statistic is based on a recent survey of 100 GPs in the UK. More information here.

A key goal for modern mental health research is to improve the precision with which we allocate treatments. Inherent to the problem with imprecise treatment allocation is the fact that mental health disorders are not unitary phenomena. They arise from the interaction of many genes, each of which interact strongly with environmental factors, such as early adversity, stress, nutrition, social support and so on. This means that even in patients who show extremely similar symptoms, mental health practitioners are often dealing with different underlying pathologies that are destined to respond preferentially to different treatment approaches. Unfortunately, the science has not reached a point where the vast majority of this complexity can be leveraged to the patient’s benefit. But, Claire and Siobhán (with the support of MQ Mental Health) are striving to make progress with this through a large-scale observational study and the application of predictive machine learning.

This research requires participation from thousands of patients who are just about to switch antidepressant or start one for the first time. To collect a sample of this size, it would normally take years using a traditional in-person research methodology – but its clear that the mental health community at large simply cannot wait. To address this, we have developed an innovative internet-based methodology that allows people to complete participation from the comfort of their own homes from any part of the world.

If successful, this tool could be used by patients via a mobile device either at home, or as they sit in the waiting room, before being seen by their doctor; thereby improving both the accuracy and speed with which doctors can make treatment decisions.

Why are we asking for support from pharmacists?

Recruiting a sufficiently large sample of eligible individuals is a major challenge for this form of research. It certainly helps that our internet-based methodology facilitates worldwide participation (and 100s of millions worldwide are prescribed antidepressants each year).


But, it is still very challenging to reach individuals within the narrow time period for which they are eligible to commence participation (i.e. between receiving a prescription and starting to take the antidepressant +/- a few days).

For this reason, we would be enormously grateful if pharmacists would be open to supporting this ambitious project. Specifically, we would be grateful if pharmacists would be willing to share these flyers about the research with customers who have been prescribed antidepressants for the first time or who are about to switch to a new one.

Do you need to say anything to your customer about the flyer/research?

Not necessarily. We would be happy for them to just review the information on the flyer and make their own decision about whether they are interested in participating. You may like to mention that they may be eligible for some important research, and that they can read about it on the flyer you have enclosed.

If you are willing to oblige to this request, please provide your name and pharmacy postal address below so that we can send the flyers to you.