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Genetic Differences May Reduce Pain Relieving Effects of Opioids

Date: May 03, 2016
Media Contact:

Elisheva Schlam
Executive Director of Communications
646-565-5420
Elisheva.schlam@touro.edu

New York, NY - A comprehensive review of the scientific literature on opioid pain management found that people with a certain gene mutation do not respond as well to opioid pain medications and may need to be managed differently to get relief.  

The review will be presented at Touro College Research Day, which is being held from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3, at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Touro College of Pharmacy campus at 230 West 125th Street in Harlem. The program is organized by the Touro Research Collaborative.

Though there are standard dosages for opioids, studies have shown that patients react differently to them.  “Some people don’t seem to respond as well, and doses need to be raised in order to have adequate pain control, but that increases the risks of side effects, including addition,” says Priyank Kumar, PhD, Assistant Professor and Head of Laboratory Research at the Touro College of Pharmacy, who conducted this research with Drs. Zvi Loewy and Maureen Sullivan.

The researchers looked at about 60 studies over a ten-year period to examine a known gene variation, called a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP, found on an opioid receptor.  

The studies showed that people with a difference of one neucleotide—they had an A118G, rather than the standard A118A —had a decreased sensitivity to opioids. The studies showed that people with this polymorphism were also more susceptible to side effects including addiction. 

Dr. Kumar and his team are advocating for genetic testing for this polymorphism in patients before patients with chronic or serious pain are prescribed opioids. “Genetic testing is done routinely when treating illnesses like cancer, and many medications are designed based on this information,” says Dr. Kumar. “But for pain medications, such genetic testing is not popular.”

Someone with this polymorphism could be put on a different opioid other than morphine, such as fentanyl. “It will help us in designing a better pain management regime for the patients with A118G polymorphism,” says  Dr. Kumar.  “Genetic testing may explain and predict many of the clinical responses seen with opioids medications, and may help the clinician identify those patients at genetic risk of opioid misuse and addiction”’ says Dr. Kumar.

About the Touro College and University System

Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 29 branch campuses, locations and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to: www.touro.edu/news