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Simple Cheek Swab Depicts What Prescription Drugs Will Work for You - The Future of Medicine?

Published November 15, 2017
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff  

You feel a shooting pain in your back. The next day, that pain is still there, but it's escalated. You now have back pain between your shoulder blades and you're stiff all over. You don't feel like participating in life, but the truth is, you have no other choice. So you try to tough it out, but then it starts interrupting your daily routine and your quality of life.

Maybe you get to a breaking point since you're not on your a game. You decide to Google your symptoms. Uh-oh. Maybe that wasn't the best idea because the results are showing you have two weeks to live. That can't be right. Googling your symptoms when you don't feel well is the most efficient way to convince yourself you are dying.

You may have put yourself in panic attack mode as you dial your physician's number to make an appointment, which is always the right move. The day arrives and you go to your doctor's appointment. You begin to describe your back pain symptoms. Your doctor does his or her best to match your symptoms to a prescription in hopes that it works, but does it?

Sometimes finding the right medication is all about trial and error. You try one and the pain is still there so you try another. You then take your prescription to a local pharmacy to be filled and brought home. Will it work? You'll have to consume the drug to see if it does, however, it's never that simple.

Effects of the Opioid Epidemic on Chronic Back Pain Patients

The current opioid epidemic has taken thousands of lives — 130 people die every 24 hours in the U.S. alone. Now, doctor’s nationwide are cautious about prescribing painkillers because of newly established rules and regulations in place aiming to limit overdose deaths associated with prescription medications.

“I went and saw my primary doctor today about my pain level and meds. He basically said that due to the CDC guidelines, he is cutting me off all pain meds,” a herniated disc and sciatica patient, Bobby Rosenbaum writes in an online back pain forum. “I reminded him that I have tried alternative pain treatment (injections, physical therapy, massage, heat, ice, electrotherapy, etc.) And narcotics are all that work for me."

Rosenbaum is currently on 15mg of oxycodone —six pills a day. “All I did was ask that I get put on eight pills a day,” he adds. “Now that he's basically called me an addict — which I have been evaluated for by a drug counselor who labeled me a pain patient, not an addict — I'm feeling really depressed and emotional.”

Although not all addicts have back pain and not all back pain patients are addicts, some of us are sick of the never-ending game of trial and error paired with judgment. The negative stigma that comes with the territory of being a chronic pain patient is definitely a story for another day. However, us chronic back pain warriors are now being limited on what medications we can take to relieve our back pain because of those prescription modifications.

Is There a Better Way?

Kinney Drugs, a chain of over 110 drugstores and pharmacies throughout Central and Northern New York, as well as Vermont, hopes to improve the lives of families and chronic pain patients. In today's modern society, when there's a technological solution to almost anything, why can't we apply those advances to our health and medications? What if there was a way for your medical team to decipher the exact prescription you need to relieve your back and spine condition symptoms? Maybe, we can now thanks to Kinney Drugs.

“If you're starting out on something new, it'd be great to know how you may respond to that medication,” Kinney Drugs Pharmacy Services Manager Shannon Miller shares.

Miller reveals that there's a technique to discover exactly how a medication will work in a patient's body, which is done through your DNA.

“If you are let's say, a fast metabolizer, you might get rid of the drug very quickly, which means you would need a higher dose,” Miller says.

Kinney Drugs is proposing a new test that takes minutes to complete via a swift cheek swab so that physicians can obtain their patient's exact DNA. This will provide further evidence on what will work for you when your doctor goes to write a prescription — particularly referring to opioids.

“It's helping prescribers make different decisions when prescribing opioids when they know how a patient may or may not respond to that,” she adds.

This may result in a decreased amount of written opioids prescriptions, which can then positively affect the distribution in the black market or even opioid abuse in general.

A pathologist at The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVM), Nikoletta Sidiropoulos urges, “That information can be used in a clinic to tailor dosage of opioids for chronic pain patients.”

Here's to Hoping

Medical professionals believe that this is the future of prescribing medications with a supplementary advantage that may assist and control our current opioid epidemic because, according to Miller, “This test is the first time a test like this is affordable to the public.”

Reports from NBC News 5 say that the test should be covered by most insurance companies with a doctor's prescription. Today, it's available at six area Kinney Drug locations in Vermont.

Living with a chronic back pain diagnosis is not fun by any means and is exactly as it sounds, a huge pain. But if there was a way to actually find out what medications will work for your body and your specific condition, who wouldn’t want to try it out?

Updated: February 15, 2020

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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