Alumna Unites Pain Management and Pharmacogenetics

Leah LaRue ’10, a recognized leader in pain medication management, is extending the focus of her work to include the innovative field of pharmacogenetics, a type of genetic testing that shows how genetic variability impacts individual responses to medications.

LaRue, who received the 2013 Industry Pain Educator Award from the American Society of Pain Educators and PAINWeek, works at Millennium Laboratories as an associate director of clinical affairs. In her role, she collaborates externally with health care practitioners and internally with Millennium staff to share information about ways pharmacogenetic testing can help clinicians improve patient care. “Pharmacogenetic testing takes an individualized approach to medicine,” LaRue says. “We’re taking an individual’s genetic profile and helping clinicians match the right medication in the fastest amount of time. I believe this is the future of health care.”

Leah LaRue

Her knowledge of opioids and expertise in pain medication management have been vital to LaRue’s work. “I often lead educational programs around medication monitoring,” she says. “I speak about the importance of medication safety, and I also explain how pharmacogenetics may improve medication safety. Pharmacogenetic tests show how patients metabolize certain medications and whether they may have increased risks for side effects. This information can be especially important in the fields of pain, addiction, and psychiatry.

LaRue’s education and training as a pharmacist gives her an insight she can share with other practitioners. “As a pharmacist, I understand the way medications are metabolized,” she says. “I work with physicians and other health care professionals to help them understand how information from pharmacogenetic testing can be useful in their patient population and how they can incorporate it into their workflow.”

As more information about pharmacogenetics develops, LaRue will remain in the forefront as a champion for its benefits to patient care. “I believe pharmacogenetics is the wave of the future,” she says. “I will be spending a great deal of time evaluating research on it and helping educate others in the profession about how best to use the information. I think in many ways pharmacists are health care educators; we educate patients, and I want to continue to educate other health care professionals.”