An innovative, genomics-based pilot program to study opioid abuse and addiction was launched in Kalamazoo County recently. The program, made possible by funding provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is a collaboration between the prime awardee Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSAS), along with Ferris State University College of Pharmacy, and Genemarkers, a clinical testing lab specializing in genomics.
Genemarkers will utilize a pharmacogenomic testing panel and a custom screening panel to help researchers study how genetic data may improve opioid prescribing for chronic pain and medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder, and potentially identify patients at a greater risk for addiction. Ferris State University clinical researchers and KCMHSAS will analyze the data to better understand clinically actionable recommendations that could be used to optimize medication treatment of the patients enrolled in the program.
Additionally, the team aims to identify genetic biomarkers that predict the risk of opioid addiction.
“Genetics play an important role in how an individual metabolizes and responds to medications, including opioids prescribed for pain management and those used for medication- assisted treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD),” said Dr. Anna Langerveld, founder and CEO of Genemarkers.
State Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Twp.) championed the $750,000 in funding through supplemental appropriations specifically focused on preventing opioid abuse and addiction.
The program is aligned with state-wide initiatives to combat the opioid crisis. Congressman Fred Upton (R- St. Joseph) was instrumental in securing a phase one $16.3 million award in federal funding to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) through the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is also in favor of battling this epidemic. Three months ago, as Calley signed into legislation Public Acts 248 and 249 of 2017, he said, “The addiction epidemic is now claiming more lives than car accidents… prevention and earlier detection of addiction will save lives.”
This study is particularly relevant to the MDHHS as a recent Center for Disease Control report indicates that almost half of prescription painkiller overdoses occur in Medicaid-eligible patients.
“Integrating genomic information has the potential to improve health care and quality of life,” said Jeff Patton, Director Kalamazoo Community Mental Health. “With an opioid epidemic crippling many communities, solutions for improving prescribing, treatment, and prevention are greatly needed.”