Impact of Genetic Risk in Opioid Abuse Examined at ICOO

By John Lavitt 07/30/15

Researchers are hopeful that identifying genetic reactions to treatment will lead to better outcomes.


New research on the genetic risk of opioid abuse highlighted the 2015 International Conference on Opioids (ICOO). At the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, the focus of the ICOO was on the clinical application of opioid pharmacology. In order to improve the clinical application, a deeper look into genetic factors for opioid abuse was also examined.

Proove Biosciences presented a scoring algorithm to determine the predictability of aberrant behavior to opioids while incorporating phenotypic risk factors into the final analysis. Examining the role of genetics in relation to risk factors for opioid abuse, one of the new tools assesses the risk of abuse, misuse, and addiction for people prescribed opioid drugs. When designated as high-risk, the question highlighted by the new tests is what role do genetic factors play in the assessment and how can they bolster prevention efforts by the prescribing physicians.

“At the International Conference on Opioids, the general consensus of physicians I spoke to was that pharmacogenomics is unproven and has value only in cases of aberrant metabolizers," said Dr. Maggie Hopkins, a Proove Biosciences Clinical Science Liaison and the presenting author of the genetic studies. "When I told them about our genetic tests predicting risk of addiction, pain perception, and response to opioids ... one of the physicians with a large practice said, ‘This would be incredibly valuable.’”

The latest version of the SOAPP-R (the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain) is a self-questionnaire designed to help physicians evaluate a patients’ risk for opioid abuse and addiction. By examining unintended side effects of opioid use such as euphoria, itching, myositis, and physical tolerance, the impact of genetics on drug response is highlighted. By connecting side effects to genetic risk for opioid abuse, the goal is to provide physicians with a greater understanding of their patients.

A main innovation at the 2015 ICOO is the focus on opioid antagonist use, particularly Suboxone. The testing algorithms have been expanded to help determine if genetics influence an individual’s response to Suboxone, the brand name for the opioid buprenorphine. Since genetics may account for a large percentage of an individual's drug response, Proove Biosciences is trying to identify the genetic factors that may influence an individual’s reaction to Suboxone. Given the tremendous impact that Suboxone use is having in terms of both addiction problems and treatment resolutions, such information could prove quite useful to clinicians.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.