Personalized pain medication: Why is it necessary?


Pain conditions are leading contributors to disability worldwide. Despite this, treatments vary in efficacy between individuals, and some carry a high potential for misuse. Personalized pain medicine is an emerging field that aims to produce safe and effective treatments tailored to individual needs.Around 1.71 billion peopleTrusted Source live with a pain- or musculoskeletal-related condition globally. These include lower back pain, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Such conditions are linked to worse mental health and well-being measures, increased work absenteeism, and productivity losses.

Treatment options for pain depend on severity. Milder forms of pain may be treated with over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin and ibuprofen.


If these drugs fail to provide relief, doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants such as diazepam, NSAIDs such as celecoxib, or steroid treatments like dexamethasone. Aside from these, doctors may also offer opioids, including codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone, for short-term use.


While each of these drugs is widely used for pain relief, their varied effectsTrusted Source and safety profiles have inspired patients and researchers alike to search for more personalized treatment options.


Why personalization is important


“Our currently available pain management therapeutics are essentially one-size-fits-all. For most pain, we treat it with NSAIDs or opioids,” Dr. Cynthia Renn, professor of pain and translational symptom science at the University of Maryland, told Medical News Today. “There haven’t been any really transformative analgesic discoveries since the identification of the opioids.”


“The NSAIDs and opioids work with more or less efficacy to treat pain from various origins. We know that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for everyone, given that two people with seemingly the same injury suffer pain differently; some will recover quickly with minimal pain while others will go on to develop chronic pain,” she pointed out.


When asked why some analgesics may work in some and not others, Dr. Kevin Boehnke, a research investigator in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, explained that there are two key factors.The first, he noted, is “genetics and metabolism.” He explained:“People metabolize medicines at different rates. The same dose of the same medication might last longer and have more potent effects in person A, a slow metabolizer, versus person B, a fast metabolizer.

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