Exploring racial differences in antidepressant response



It has long been recognized that antidepressants are less effective for African-Americans with major depression than for individuals of other races External link. The difference has generally been attributed to factors such as greater treatment drop‐out rates and socioeconomic adversity. A better understanding of possible genetic causes could help reduce the existing health disparities.


IRP researchers led by Francis McMahon, M.D., used genome‐wide single‐nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data to show that genetic ancestry, rather than self‐reported race, helps drive racial differences in response to treatment with the antidepressant citalopram.


This was the first demonstration of genetic effects on antidepressant response independent of race in African-Americans with major depression. The study highlights the importance of including more African-American patients in drug development and treatment trials to ensure new therapies are effective in this population.


Murphy E, Hou L, Maher BS, Woldehawariat G, Kassem L, Akula N, Laje G, McMahon FJ. (2013). Race, genetic ancestry and response to antidepressant treatment for major depression. Neuropsychopharmacology. 38(13), 2598-606.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, June 20, 2023