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A new web tool has been developed to simplify the prescription of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.

Psymatik treatment optimizer website tool to help identify treatments

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London hope the move will empower patients to have a more active role in choosing the medication that they take.  

The release of the web tool, the Psymatik Treatment Optimizer, has been accompanied by the publication of an umbrella review in Lancet Psychiatry. Researchers reviewed all available data on 69 medications – 32 antipsychotics and 37 antidepressants – which was then used to create a database of side effects and effectiveness of each one. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) prescribing guidelines for antidepressants and antipsychotics recommend that patient and doctor have a conversation about the effectiveness and side effects of different medications before prescribing. However, due to the number of drugs available, and the wide array of potential side effects, meaningful conversations about the medications on offer are difficult and often limited to only a few options. 

Prior to making a choice about which drug to prescribe, doctor and patient sit down to discuss the various potential side effects that the patient is most concerned about. The doctor inputs this information into the Optimizer, which then provides a clear table on which antidepressant is least likely to cause that side effect, balanced against its effectiveness as a medication. 

Dr Robert McCutcheon, Wellcome Clinical Career Development Fellow at the University of Oxford and the study’s senior author, said:

Helping an individual choose a medication that is right for them is absolutely crucial, and optimising the balance of side effects is key to helping people stick with treatments than help their symptoms.

We have compiled that most comprehensive side effect database for antidepressants and antipsychotics that streamlines the prescribing process while also empowering patients to make the decisions that are right for them.”  

Dr Toby Pillinger, a Clinical Lecturer at King’s IoPPN and the study’s first author, explains: “The Psymatik Treatment Optimizer allows patients and their doctors to easily establish which side effects the patient is most worried about, allowing both parties to quickly highlight which medication is likely to work best. 

“A patient might, for example, feel reluctant to engage with a course of medication due to the significant amount of weight they gained the last time that type of medication was prescribed. Our database takes that information and plots out a series of alternatives, setting the groundwork for a much more transparent conversation about the prescribing process.” 

This research is supported by funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Maudsley Charity.