What role does genetics have in pain?
Research shows that genetic factors account for a substantial proportion of all elements contributing to a patient’s response to drugs (others include age, sex, weight, general health and liver function).
Genes provide your body with instructions for making enzymes, which help break down drugs in your system, allowing your body to benefit from the medicine. Differences in your enzymes can affect how your body metabolizes a drug and how long the drug stays your body – and thus, how well drugs may work in an individual.
In particular, common pain medications require activation by an enzyme called CYP2D6 to become effective. Approximately half of patients have genes that alter the function of CYP2D6. Testing for these gene alterations allows for changes to dosage regimens in order to compensate for altered metabolisms – and optimizes the safety and efficacy of pain medications.
Without knowing an individual’s specific genetic code, physicians may often need to go through months of trial-and-error prescribing to find the right drug and dose. Physicians are often baffled when a drug will work for one person but not for another with the same diagnosis. The fact of the matter is that physicians really do not know how to predict drug effectiveness or toxicity because everyone is different. Genetic testing helps assess drug responsiveness. An individual’s genes can be a map that serves as a guide for physicians.
What is Pharmacogenetic Testing (PGT)?
A simple saliva test can evaluate an individual’s ability to metabolize or process drugs. Pain medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, diazepam and morphine utilize the CYP2D6 enzyme in order to metabolize the drug. As a drug gets metabolized, it is broken down into harmless pieces and eventually cleared. The activity of your clearance system is based on your genetic code. Once tested, this knowledge about an individual’s unique drug metabolizing system can help guide physicians.
What is the purpose of PGT?
Physicians would like to be able to anticipate how one may respond to a drug instead of relying on a trial-and-error process. By knowing the specific way one may break-down drugs, a physician can tailor treatment according to an individual’s unique metabolism and immediately find the right drug. Not only will this information help physicians predict which drug will best treat pain, a physician will also be able to predict the effective dose and potential for toxicity. In theory, this knowledge has the potential to save time, money and lives.
Pharmacogenetic testing (PGT), specifically, is exceedingly important for the proper management of pain because finding the precise drug and dose for each patient is so critically important. The groundbreaking development of PGT testing provides more individualized drug treatment for patients while also reducing adverse effects.