CHLS Aims at Precision Medicine Approach with Research

CHLS Aims at Precision Medicine Approach with Research on Antidepressant Prescription Trends in Qatar

15 Sep 2021

Joint study with Sidra Medicine, HMC, and WCM-Q highlights need to understand genetic variability in Qatari patients for better treatment options

HBKU’s College of Health and Life Sciences Aims at Precision Medicine Approach with Research on Antidepressant Prescription Trends in Qatar

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU)’s College of Health and Life Sciences (CHLS) has published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine the findings of a joint study on antidepressant prescription patterns and off-label use in the Qatari population.

Dr. Puthen V. Jithesh, associate professor at CHLS, worked with Dr. Kholoud Bastaki, the first Qatari to graduate from the PhD program in Genomics and Precision Medicine at CHLS and the first author of the paper; researchers from Sidra Medicine; and Hamad Medical Corporation’s Mental Health Services, to conduct a retrospective database study of Qatari patients prescribed antidepressants between June 2018 and May 2020. According to the paper, studying the prescription pattern of medications will help in identifying potential unnecessary prescriptions and support the need for personalized medicine.

Evidence indicates that genetic factors play an important role in determining differences in patient responses to antidepressants and associated adverse effects. In a soon-to-be-published related study, Dr. Jithesh used whole genome sequencing data to investigate drug-related genetic variation in the adult Qatari population. The findings identified a high prevalence of variation in two genes which are important in the metabolism of several antidepressants. The results further highlight the need to implement pharmacogenomics tests to support personalized prescriptions, dosage adjustments, or alternate drugs for more efficient treatment. 

Dr. Edward Stuenkel, founding dean of CHLS, said: “Population-level prescription trends, as reported in the study, when combined with patient genetic variability and outcome data, will enable clinicians to predict the potential treatment failures and adverse effects of these antidepressant medications in the population. The data is important in making informed decisions on the need to implement pharmacogenomic testing in Qatar, and engaging policy makers to understand usage and develop evidence-based guidelines for more efficient treatment options.”

Another of the major observations was the high level of antidepressants being prescribed for non-mental health diseases, including sleeping disorders and pain management. In this regard, the study recommended educating non-mental health prescribers about adhering to evidence and guidelines to ensure patient safety when prescribing antidepressants. 

Dr. Stuenkel added: “Our multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to research at CHLS has enabled us to benefit from the expertise and datasets of our esteemed clinical partners, Sidra Medicine and Hamad Medical Corporation. In terms of future research, the availability of big datasets generated through technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning is indispensable in helping the field of psychiatry move toward precision and personalized medicine approaches.” 

The full findings of the study can be accessed at

For more information on the work of the College of Health and Life Sciences, please visit