Pharmacogenetic Testing and Pain Management
Pharmacogenetics is the study of how an individual’s DNA affects the way they respond to different drugs. Pharmacogenetic testing reveals how an individual’s genes affect their ability to absorb, metabolize and eliminate specific medications. It can also indicate if intolerable side effects will occur with certain medications.
Pharmacogenetics and pain medications
Pharmacogenetic testing can help determine the best medication options for a specific individual. It can be particularly beneficial in the selection and prescribing of pain medications.
Pain medications range from over-the-counter pain medications to opioid prescription medications. The effectiveness and safety of pain medications can be affected by genetic factors. Examples of pain medications that can be affected by genetic factors include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), codeine, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl.
With the use of pharmacogenetic testing, pain medications and dosages can be tailored to the individual, which minimizes the risk of side effects. For example, depending on the individual, codeine may be poorly metabolized (preventing adequate pain relief); hydrocodone may be metabolized very quickly (creating a risk of toxicity); or NSAIDs may be eliminated too slowly (causing side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding). Pharmacogenetic testing helps physicians determine if an individual needs a higher or lower dosage of a certain medication or needs to be prescribed an entirely different medication.
Pharmacogenetics can also help reduce the potential for drug abuse and addiction. Pharmacogenetic testing can identify genetic variants that are associated with abuse and addiction. Individuals with these variants can then be prescribed medications with lower risks of abuse and addiction.