Industry experts say pharmacogenetic testing—the testing of the genetic differences in metabolic pathways that affect individual responses to drugs—for patients with comorbid pain, depression and anxiety could drive better quality care.
“Opioids are not that different than antidepressants in the sense that people respond to them in a very idiosyncratic way,” says Steve Passik, PhD, vice president of clinical research and advocacy, Millenium Health, a clinical testing organization. “Despite the fact that the drugs are all kind of related to one another, people respond to them very differently.”
Treating comorbid pain—usually consisting of trial and error until the best balance of pain relief to side effects is achieved—can be a frustrating process, Passik says. Additionally, prescribing substances that ultimately aren’t beneficial to a patient is not only wasteful but risky in terms of diversion.
Pharmacogenetic testing is still very much in its early phases, Passik says, but it aims to cut out trial and error and reduce cost.
“It’s not like you order a test, get back a number, and you know exactly what to do with it,” he says about the process. “Clinicians will need a lot of backup and support to take these results and turn them into clinical decisions that will benefit individual patients and the healthcare system.”