Study Links Individual Genetics to Reaction of ADHD Meds

Scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina to Examine How Medications Used to Treat ADHD Work in the Brain.

Wednesday October 17th - 9:53am

Sometimes finding the right medication for adults and children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD/ADD) is harder than getting the diagnosis in the first place. Individual genetics play a large role in how children and adults with ADHD will react to certain medications and doses, with side effects ranging from stomachache to cardiovascular reactions. The Medical University of South Caroline has been granted $1.3 million dollars to research the way medications used to treat ADHD affect the brain. Soon finding the right medication for each individual might not only be easier, but also reduce the possibility of side effects.

Physicians generally monitor the amount of ADHD medication in a patient by examining their blood levels. "The problem, said John S. Markowitz, PharmD., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences and principal investigator of the study, "is there is no guaranteed way to know how much of the medicine is actually making it into the brain to exert its intended effects without leading to untoward adverse effects. Presently, patients treated with one or more of these medications may be experiencing a lot of side effects, possibly even toxicity, yet that person's blood level of the medication may appear normal and within expected ranges for the particular medication."

Even though two different patients diagnosed with ADHD, of the same sex, weight and height might receive the same medication, the may react differently – one may be relieved of the symptoms, while the other can sometimes experience serious, sometimes life-threatening side-effects. That is because it was previously thought that blood concentrations of medications reflect the same levels of concentration in the brain. However, researchers are now realizing that there can be a significant difference in the medication concentrated in the brain versus the blood.

What’s the best way to determine how the body allows substances in and out? Study the brain. Blood Brain Barriers (BBB) act as the gatekeepers to the nervous system, letting “good” substances in, and “bad” ones out. Sometimes, they do not know how much of a substance to let in, at times rejecting toxins that they view as harmful to the brain.

Using a variety of different studies, MUSC will examine the role of transporters called organic cation transporters (OCTs), found in tissues such as the heart, brain and placenta, to determine whether or not these could have an effect on the way ADHD medications travel to the brain. This study could find a better way for ADHD medications to be more effective, tolerable and safe.

For more information on this story and other studies see MUSC Health

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