Researchers develop blood test that determines severity of pain, paints clearer picture of patient needs

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Researchers at the IU School of Medicine believe they’ve developed a way to help change how doctors prescribe addictive prescription drugs.

Dr. Alexander Niculescu and his team believe they’ve developed a blood test that can determine the severity of pain a patient is experiencing. The test would also allow for doctors to have a clearer picture of patient needs.

“We think we broke the code for pain,” Niculescu said.

The current system for pain diagnosis and prescription relies on what a patient reports or doctor evaluations. Niculescu says the test would allow for more precise medicine to guide standards.

Niculescu says the test identifies molecules or biomarkers that track pain severity. In cases of increased pain, the molecules are elevated, and as pain decreases, so do the molecules. Niculescu says the information gathered from the test can not only objectively tell a doctor how much pain a patient is in, but how much medicine a patient really needs. This would cut down on under-prescribing or over-prescribing medication.

You could have your pain not adequately treated, or treated with the wrong medication, or you could have your pain over treated with something addictive, which causes its own problems,” he said.

Anti-drug advocates say the over prescription of addictive medications fueled the opioid crisis.

“It’s more common for someone to have a legal prescription for themselves and get addicted to that than it is for someone to just start doing heroin on the street,” Chase Lyday of the Decatur Township Drug Free Coalition said.

Along with identifying pain, Niculescu says the molecules identified in the test could help match the patient with the drugs that would be best suited for them, as well as predict when a patient might experience pain.

“We can deal with these issues just like you would deal with cardiological issues, or cancer. You would have tests for it, you would have precise medication, and you would have much better outcomes,” Niculescu said.

To read more about Niculescu’s test, you can click here.

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