Can Genetic Testing Prevent Methadone Deaths?

November 10th, 2015

New research from Washington University in St. Louis has identified genetic subtypes that govern methadone clearance. Given the variable and unpredictable half-life and clearance of methadone, the hope is that genetic testing could identify the slow metabolizers and prevent deaths.

“A person’s genetic makeup influences how an enzyme in the liver metabolizes methadone,” says principal investigator Evan D. Kharasch, a professor of anesthesiology, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “This explains why some people can have very high levels of methadone in their blood—high enough to trigger a potential overdose—even if they have received the same dose of the drug as others who are not affected the same way.”

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