Pharmacogenetics of Pain Medications

Researchers are currently looking into the way that the genetic make-up of an individual impacts his or her experience of good and bad effects from pain medications.

The link between genes and a person’s response to medication – pharmacogenetics – is a growing field and studies are continually being performed to help to support the difference that it can make in prescribing the right drugs and in the proper dosages, based on an individual’s genetics, in order to help to eliminate the need for a trial and error process which is currently the most common practice.

The majority of painkiller drugs are broken down by the liver by a group of enzymes. One primary example of these enzymes is CYP2D6. This is a vital part of the process of determining the reaction of an individual to a drug that has been prescribed. If a painkiller medication is broken down too quickly by this process, then there will not be adequate amounts of the drug in the bloodstream to provide the individual with the necessary pain reduction effect. However, on the other hand, if the metabolism of the medication is too slow, then the levels of the drug in the bloodstream may be too high, leading to unwanted and unpleasant side effects.

Researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin, in the United States, are currently investigating the different ways that the CYP2D6 gene variants have an impact on the way that an individual experiences the effects and side effects of various forms of medication. They are now connecting the CYP2D6 genotype with the actual painkiller levels that will be measured in the patient’s blood.

By performing this research, the scientists at the university are hoping to reveal which patients are the ones that are the most likely to experience side effects and which ones would require a higher dose in order to make sure that the painkilling effects are strong enough. This could potentially be very useful information for making sure that doctors will be able to provide the right choice of drug and its dosage based on the unique needs and genes of the patient who is experiencing the pain symptoms.

There is potential for this type of study to revolutionize the prescription practices for painkillers and other medications and to minimize the risk of unwanted side effects among the patients who must take these medications as a part of their treatments.

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