Genetic Test for Opioid Addiction Risk Should Be Withdrawn, Experts Tell FDA

This test could be a very slippery slope for this company and any practitioner who uses it and its results. Addiction has substantial underlying mental health issues. Mental health issues are all pretty much subjective health issues and can be various subsets of the total mental health spectrum.

What happens when a pt shows a “positive” test result and is not given or taken off their opioid pain meds, and the pt suffers health consequences for under/untreated pain?

On the other side, the pt shows a “negative” test result and is given opioids for their pain, and they end up becoming an addict because the negative ended up being a false negative.

I suspect that some entity is going to be sued for damages, will it be the pharma or the prescriber who ordered the test?

I hope that the FDA takes the recommendation of its committee of experts and withdraws this test from the marketplace. Of course, FDA is protected by sovereign immunity from being sued for any damages.

Genetic Test for Opioid Addiction Risk Should Be Withdrawn, Experts Tell FDA

Methodology behind AvertD DNA test questioned

A group of 31 physicians and researchers called on the FDA to reverse its decision about AvertD, a test that uses DNA to identify whether adults may have an elevated risk of developing opioid use disorder (OUD).

In a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, experts in genetics, addiction, psychiatry, public health, and device regulation asked the agency to revoke its recent approval of AvertD, based on research that doesn’t support the methodology used by the test’s sponsor.

The group also sent a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure asking CMS to deny coverage of AvertD.

The FDA approved AvertD in December 2023. The prescription-only genetic test from SOLVD Health is expected to be on the market soon.

AvertD detects the presence of 15 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to help identify people who may have an increased risk of OUD. It’s intended to be used in combination with clinical evaluations and patient assessments when oral prescription opioids are being considered to treat acute pain.

The major risks associated with AvertD are false-negative and false-positive results, the FDA said. Before the agency approved it, an FDA advisory committee voted strongly against an earlier version of AvertD, with false-negative and false-positive test results being a primary concern.

“The FDA seems to believe the test isn’t a very good test but that it’s better than nothing. They’ve got it wrong,” said Andrew Kolodny, MD, an opioid policy expert at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, who signed the letters to the FDA and CMS.

“The problem isn’t that the test has weak specificity and sensitivity,” Kolodny told MedPage Today. “The problem is that it doesn’t work at all. It’s 100% bogus.”

The AvertD test will harm people, Kolodny emphasized. “Patients who test negative, and their clinicians, will be left with a false sense of security, which can result in overuse of opioids and addiction,” he said.

“Patients who test positive will be falsely branded as prone to a highly stigmatized condition,” he continued. “And they may become fearful of taking opioids, even in situations where use is beneficial.”

Genetic tests for opioid addiction have a checkered history. The FDA approval of AvertD last year was an industry first.

Like many genetic tests, confounding is part of the problem, Kolodny and colleagues said. An independent evaluation using methodology like the one used to test AvertD found that the algorithm gave the appearance of predicting genetic risk but was not a true measure of genetic risk, they noted.

“With proper controls for ancestry, genetic predictors from the 15 variants used in AvertD did not predict risk of OUD any better than chance,” they said in their letters to the FDA and CMS.

SOLVD Health said it was aware of the letters to FDA and CMS and is reviewing them.

“We believe the FDA approval of AvertD represents a significant step forward in helping clinicians and patients have informed discussions about opioid-sparing techniques or alternative pain management options, if medically appropriate,” the company said in an email to MedPage Today.

“Consistent with regulatory guidelines and standards, AvertD was clinically validated through a blinded, multicenter study evaluating participants at least 1 year after their initial exposure to prescription oral opioids,” SOLVD noted. “In the hands of physicians, the test results can be a critical tool to help combat opioid use disorder.”

The company also said it is conducting prospective post-market studies to further evaluate the test’s performance in real-world settings.

One Response

  1. What could go wrong? Oh man.

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