Patients + Research: Larry Meikle
Larry Meikle is a retired Ontario civil servant. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creating Nonfiction Writing in 2015 from the University of King’s College in Halifax, and is currently writing his first book.
My experience with personalized medicine
Over the past three years, I’ve felt better than I have for decades. I could not have completed my master’s if I were feeling as I did in the past, before I participated in CAMH’s IMPACT study on mental health problems and DNA.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1997, and I’ve been taking antidepressants ever since. I tried going off my meds a few times, but painfully realized I couldn’t battle depression without them.
A few years ago, the antidepressant I had been taking for so many years suddenly stopped working. My family doctor started me on a new medication, which went reasonably well. But anxiety was still a problem and I felt I could be doing much better.
My doctor suggested yet another medication, but I dreaded facing the slow and painful process of winding down one med, then building up the dosage of a new one. And what if it didn’t work? There was no guarantee the new antidepressant would work any better than my current one; in fact, I could have gotten worse. Changing meds was a “crap shoot” – a roll of the dice.
In fall 2012, I learned about CAMH’s research project involving genetic testing and depression, and told my doctor that I was interested in participating. In January 2013, I was accepted into the study. Not only that – my doctor’s practice would be the first site in the official “rollout” of the study to the Ontario public, and I would be the first person genetically tested in this rollout.
Taking part in this study was a breeze. I provided a saliva sample for genetic testing at my next doctor’s appointment, and two days later I had the results.
The test results listed a number of common antidepressants in “green” –these medications my body would metabolize well, with little chance of experiencing negative side effects. Other antidepressants were listed in “yellow,” advising my doctor that they may not be as effective for me. Fortunately my current medication was in the “green” area, a perfect fit.
Because I felt I could be doing better, my doctor suggested two options – choose another antidepressant from the “green” category, or increase the dose of my current medication. He said he would not have been confident in increasing my dose without these test results.
It was an easy choice. I asked to have my dosage increased, which he did slowly, tracking my progress until we reached the point I’m at today: taking double the dose as before and feeling much, much better for it.
Some feelings of depression linger, as I expect they always will, but the anxiety has been dramatically reduced.
CAMH’s DNA test played a significant role in enabling me to get my life back on track, and now other Canadians with depression have the same opportunity. I believe this genetic test is an exciting new tool in the treatment of depression.
I hope my story will inspire more public discussion of depression, thereby reducing the stigma associated with this illness.
Larry participated in CAMH’s IMPACT study, which is still underway, Find out more about the IMPACT study at www.im-pact.ca.
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