Personalized Medicine May Identify Those At-Risk of Opioid Misuse

Genetic testing may reveal patients who have a higher risk of developing opioid use disorder.

As the opioid epidemic continues to claim lives in the United States and around the world, a new study suggests that genetic testing may be able to predict a person’s risk of becoming addicted to the powerful pain killers, according to a press release form Prescient Medicine.

The study, published by the Annals of Clinical & Laboratory Science, provides evidence that the validated tool may help reduce the impact of opioid misuse and could become vital to the fight against opioids, according to the authors.

The test, LifeKit Predict, was developed by Prescient and was based on scientific data. Previous studies have shown that genetics play a role in opioid use disorder.

In the new study, the authors first mapped genetic variations between populations addicted to opioids and those that were not. The authors then developed a predictive algorithm to determine the risk of opioid use disorder based on 37 patients addicted to opioids or heroin and 30 matched controls.

The algorithm created an addiction risk score based on 16 genetic mutations in the brain’s reward pathways, according to the release.

“Our first step included a collaboration with AutoGenomics, Inc, who thoroughly researched the scientific literature to identify and better understand the genes associated with the brain reward pathways,” said lead study author Keri Donaldson, MD, founder, CEO at Prescient Medicine. “Using those data, we identified candidate genes to act as markers and then validated that those genes had predictive value in a 67-patient study. These findings confirmed what previously published data have shown—that there is a strong genetic component to opioid addiction, and with the right tools, an individual’s risk of opioid dependency can be predicted.”

Included in the second study were 138 patient samples, which were analyzed to determine the efficacy of the test.

The findings showed that LifeKit Predict is able to identify whether an individual has a low likelihood of opioid use disorder with 97% accuracy, according to the release. The test is also able to determine whether an individual has an increased risk of the condition with 88% certainty, according to the release.

With this insight, physicians may be able to seek alternative therapies for those at high risk of opioid addiction, according to the release. This test may provide patients with a more personalized approach to pain management, which may prevent the development of opioid use disorder.

“There’s no doubt that the huge surge in prescription opioid use in this country has spawned the deadliest drug overdose crisis in US history. But to date, much of the focus has been on reactive solutions that have been largely ineffective, versus working to prevent addiction before it even starts,” said Joe Garbely, DO, medical director and vice president of Medical Services at Caron Treatment Centers. “While the use of predictive, personalized medicine to determine opioid addiction risk is still a relatively new science, I am incredibly encouraged by the data and the potential of genetic tools like LifeKit Predict to help prevent opioid abuse and ultimately save lives.”