Pharmacogenetic-Supported Prescribing for Kids


Children with moderate to severe mental health conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety, OCD) or neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, ADHD) are frequently prescribed medications as either the sole form of treatment or in combination with psychotherapy. However, up to 50% of these children will not respond or experience burdensome adverse drug reactions to these medications. Current use of mental health-related medications (e.g., antidepressants, antipsychotics) in children can be best described as a trial-and-error process that can impact the well-being of those taking the medications and their families at a considerable economic cost. However, this trial-and-error process could, in part, be avoided through the application of pharmacogenetic testing, a specific type of genetic testing that has the potential to improve drug efficacy and reduce the morbidity, mortality and cost associated with adverse drug reactions. The aim of this project is to implement and evaluate an evidence-based pharmacogenetic testing service to improve drug treatment outcomes in children receiving mental health care.

Our objectives are to:

1. Implement Canada’s first pharmacogenetics testing service to improve drug treatment outcomes in children receiving mental health care.   

2. Collect performance, outcome, and economic indicators related to the pharmacogenetics testing service.

3. Establish a research platform for the discovery of new genetic and non-genetic markers of drug treatment outcomes relevant to mental health care in children.  


Eligibility Criteria

• Age 6 - 24

• Start, switch, dose change, or augmentation of psychiatric medication is indicated

•Treating doctor requests pharmacogenetic testing

•Reside in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba

Media Coverage


Principal Investigator

Dr. Chad Bousman, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor, Medical Genetics, University of Calgary 


Dr. Paul Arnold, MD, PhD, FRCPC,  Director, Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education; Alberta Innovates Health Solutions (AIHS) Translational Health Chair in Child and Youth Mental Health; Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Medical Genetics 

Dr. Abdullah Al Maruf, PhD, MPharm, Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy, University of Manitoba

Dr.  Alex Singer, MB BAO BCh, CCFP, Associate Professor, Director of Manitoba Primary Care Research Network

Dr. Anna Felstrom, MD, FRCPC, Division Head, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Saskatchewan Health Authority

Dr. Poonia Sukhpreet, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacist Specialist, Fraser Health Authority 

Dr. Evelyn Stewart, MD, Director of Research for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, BC Children's Hospital


Dr. Adrian Box, MD, PhD, Alberta Precision Laboratories

Dr. Mark Yarema, MD, FRCPC, Lead, Calgary Clinical Pharmacology Consultation Service and Section Chief, Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Alberta Health Services

Study Coordinators

Madison Heintz, MSW, RSW

Anita Oomen, BSc

Laboratory Team

Sarker M Shaheen, MSc, MBA, PM

Ryden McCloud-Trenchard, BS


University of Calgary

Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education

Owerko Centre

Alberta Precision Laboratories

Calgary Clinical Pharmacology Consultation Service

Funding Partner