Music intervention could lead to better drug outcomes

What if the next time you picked up a prescription for medication, it came with an accompanying prescription for a specific piece of music? That could become a reality if findings from a new study are as promising as researchers hope.

Tony Kiang

Tony Kiang

Clinical pharmacologist Tony Kiang and his collaborators are investigating whether certain types of music can affect how drugs are metabolized.

“The objective here is to optimize drug therapy,” says Kiang. “And the primary goal is really to improve patient care.”

Music intervention drug outcomes

Photo by Weston M

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Past studies have shown that more than one in nine emergency room visits are due to drug-related adverse effects, so any additional knowledge about the complex process through which drugs are metabolized and cleared from the body is beneficial, explains Kiang, an associate professor in the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Alberta.

“If we can eliminate half of the healthcare visits by better managing patients’ medication regimens, that will lead to significant increases in quality of life and cost savings,” he says.

According to Kiang, research has proven that music exposure has an effect on particular hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, as well as neurotransmitters and signalling proteins called cytokines. But these studies haven’t ventured into the terrain that Kiang and his team are looking to explore, despite the fact that many of those hormones, neurotransmitters and cytokines are synthesized and metabolized by the same pathways prescribed drugs are.

“It was very interesting that few had made the connections between music and drug metabolism effects.”

Kiang and his collaborators hypothesize that certain types of music could affect the activities of metabolism enzymes or particular proteins called transporters that are responsible for clearing drugs from the human body. They will examine music with a wide range of tempos and rhythms from various genres, starting by composing clips themselves to isolate specific factors before testing already-composed pieces.

They plan to investigate the body’s response with a minimally invasive approach in which human test subjects will listen to particular types of music and then have a blood sample drawn.

“There are certain endogenous markers in the blood which represent specific metabolism pathways,” explains Kiang. “We can use those to measure differences in metabolism for the patient being exposed to the music.”

Once they’ve gathered the subjects’ responses, they’ll begin looking for any particular types or varieties of music that had a noteworthy impact.

“If we have some positive data, we’re going to dive deeper into specific physiological processes, metabolism pathways, or specific pieces of music modalities to elucidate the beneficial effects of music.”

Kiang and his collaborators hope the results will yield information that’s widely applicable but can also be tailored to specific patients.

“For example, classical music might be beneficial for surgical patients overall, but some patients may respond better to one composer versus another.”

The simple intervention is designed to work in tandem with prescribed medication, hopefully helping to increase its effectiveness in patients while reducing any adverse effects.

“Music is ubiquitous throughout the world,” says Kiang. “If we can find a link and understand the specific components of the music that affect how drugs work, we think we can significantly improve drug therapy in the future.”

| By Adrianna MacPherson

This article was submitted by the University of Alberta’s Folio online magazine, a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.

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