Friday, October 14, 2016

Match Made In Medicine

When you find yourself up in the middle of the nights studying with a headache most likely your first instinct is to go to the bathroom medicine cabinet in hopes that Tylenol will help ease the pain. Although painkiller such as Tylenol has proven to work many factors such as age, weight and kidney function determine just how well it works. One’s genes also plays a factor in how well painkillers works. Codeine is a commonly used painkiller and once it enters the body enzymes break down the chemical into morphine. This allows the pain signal sent through the central nervous system to become numb. Codeine can cause one to become depended on the drug and can cause withdrawal if the one stops taking the drug. This can be prevented by reducing the dosage that is taken over a course of months so that the withdrawal symptoms are not server. However, an individual can have a gene variation in which they have low enzymes levels that do not allow them to break down enough to ease their pain. Then, there are other individuals that have high enzyme levels that produce too much morphine which can cause one to overdose.

There has been studies that suggest that matching an individual’s genetic makeup with medication can eliminate the side effects and risk of medication that is made to fit the general public. This would be a more efficient method to treat pain both in the comfort in one’s home or in a hospital as the medication is administered by nurses. Patients will receive better care that is tailored to their individual health needs. However, this methods can raise a couple of questions and concerns for both patients and professional in the medical field. For instance, there may be an issue with the cost of having each patient’s genetic makeup mapped out. Then, it becomes an issues of whether the physician or patient is responsible for taking care of the fee to get the gene map. Another cost to consider is the price of developing medication to fit each gene map.


  1. Is the enzyme that breaks down painkillers the same enzyme that breaks down narcotics and if so, does having high amounts of the enzyme cause drug overdoses the way it causes overdoses of painkillers? Can people with lower amounts of this enzyme withstand higher amounts of narcotics as opposed to people with higher amounts?

  2. I wonder if the individual’s genetic makeup along with a placebo effect causes different people to have different reactions to the same dose of painkillers. It is amazing that there have ben studies done to make specialized painkillers to match an individual’s genetic makeup. It would be beneficial to consumers because side effect would be eliminated. This also poses the question if pain tolerance is a part of an individual's genetic makeup as well.