(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today announced an enrollment milestone reached in the genetic study of opioid use disorder undertaken by his Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE). SCOPE began work on the unprecedented study last year, aiming to identify the genetic factors that make some individuals more susceptible than others to develop an opioid addiction.
Recruitment of patients is underway in the emergency departments of both the University of Cincinnati Medical Center (UCMC) and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OSUWMC). UCMC has now reached the initial milestone of 100 patients enrolled. UCMC and OSUWMC began enrolling patients this summer, following the development of the study’s surveys and methodology as well as a temporary pause of research at both facilities early this year due to COVID-19 concerns.
“An awful lot of the people who got addicted to opioids didn’t get that way on their own,” said Yost. “They weren’t trying to use opioids as a party drug. They went to their doctor and were given a prescription following a surgery or injury.”
To mark the 100-patient milestone, the study’s leaders discussed the project and its processes in a 13-minute presentation posted online. A 2-minute summary is also available on social media. Among their initial observations, Dr. Jon Sprague and Dr. Caroline Freiermuth point out a high participation rate among the emergency room patients who are randomly approached and asked to take part. “People truly want to help prevent others from going down the pathway of opioid addiction,” said Sprague.
SCOPE’s genetic research team will spend more than a year enrolling up to 1,500 emergency department patients for the study, and will then begin to analyze participants’ genetic and environmental data. Patients provide environmental data by answering a series of survey questions. The researchers collect a cheek swab from each patient for DNA testing to determine the presence of 180 genetic markers suspected to be associated with opioid addiction. Samples of those with opioid use disorder will be compared to those without, to determine which genetic markers are associated with opioid use disorder. Information developed by the study could guide physicians when they prescribe medication for pain management.
“Why is it that two people can take the same drug in the same dosage and only one becomes addicted?” said Yost. “We think genetics will help us understand why, and we want to get that powerful information into the hands of physicians to help stop opioid addiction before it starts,” he added.
To learn more about SCOPE and its work, visit OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/SCOPE.