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Pain relief: One medication doesn't fit all

When I've got a pounding headache, I often reach for Advil because Tylenol just doesn't work for me. My brother, on the other hand, swears by Excedrin. Over at Shots today Patti Neighmond reports on what he and I already know: Not all pain relievers are created equal. And we can chalk it up to biology, says Perry Fine, MD, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and a specialist at the University of Utah Pain Management Center:

"Human beings, person to person to person, are very different in the way they respond to drugs, and one size does not fit all." In large part, that results from genetic differences in our pain receptors - the cells in our nervous system that recognize pain and transmit that message to the brain. Just slight differences in the chemical nature of the drugs we use affect people differently, depending on their genetic makeup, says Fine.

The story also looked at a review by Oxford University scientists of 350 recent studies involving 45,000 patients and their individual responses to different pain medications, and found that what worked best for some hardly affected others. And, because genetic tests for efficacy remain in the future, Fine says the best thing for patients to do now is to work with their doctor to identify some kind of pain relief regimen that is effective.

Previously: Stanford scientists work towards developing a "painometer", Using philosophy to create a vocabulary of pain, No pain, no gain. Not!, Relieving Pain in America: A new report from the Institute of Medicine, Stanford's Sean Mackey discusses recent advances in pain research and treatment and Oh what a pain

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