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Study Aims to Increase Effectiveness of Opioid Addiction Treatment

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A new study being conducted in Morgantown is working to increase the effectiveness of addiction treatment, since as many as 20 percent of people addicted to opioids will not respond to the standard treatment of suboxone.

“I think this is essential for West Virginia due to the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Marina Galvez Peralta, Assistant Professor at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and the principal investigator of the study. “With this we can have a model so we can kind of extrapolate and compare data that of patients of West Virginia with other patients in other states that have different genetic background.”

Genetic background is one of several factors WVU and the West Virginia Clinical and Translation Science Institute will study to provide better more patient-specific addiction treatment.   

“There are different variations in genes that different people carry around,” said Dr. Vince Setola, Assistant Professor at WVU’s Department of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry. “There are certain flavors if you will of genes that people have and some of those flavors cause them to be slow metabolizers of a particular drug or some of those flavors cause them to be rapid metabolizers of a particular drug.”

Right now the study is recruiting patients from WVU Medicine’s Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment (COAT) program to begin testing.

“We’re looking at people who have unfortunately relapsed recently and some that have been more on the healthier side in terms of they haven’t relapsed in a certain while,” said WVU Pharmacy Student and Researcher Mark Sarlo.

To test the genes takes only two to two and a half hours, meaning doctors could have the answer to how much suboxone will more effectively treat a patient to start the recovery process relatively quickly.

“The drop-out rate from treatment is about 90 percent with just detoxification without medication,” said WVU Medicine Addiction Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Chestnut Ridge Dr. James Berry “For those who are able to be on the medicine, if we’re able to keep them on the medicine for about 90 days then the drop out rate is about 50 percent. For those we’re able to keep on the medicine for um greater than 90 days and up to a year then the drop out rate goes to about 20 percent.”

Not only could this research keep patients in treatment, it also makes more patient-specific care.

“The implications are personalized medicine where physicians will be able to understand their patients genetic makeup and how that contributes to their being a receiver of the medicine that’s being given, said Dr. Setola. 

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