Prompted by the opioid epidemic, federal agencies, university researchers, and drug companies, among others, are reexamining chronic pain, hoping to develop new approaches to predicting and preventing an ancient malady that afflicts 50 million adults in the U.S., the Washington Post reports. Finding answers could not be more urgent. The medical blunder of casually prescribing opioids for acute and chronic pain is partly to blame for the addiction crisis that has taken more than 400,000 lives over 20 years. Even with a sharp downturn in narcotic prescribing over the past seven years, Americans still consume 33 percent more opioids per capita than Germans, the second-greatest users, says the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board.
New discoveries could transform the treatment of long-term pain, allowing doctors and other specialists to intervene before pain becomes chronic, or provide alternatives to drugs when it does. Breakthroughs could help head off a growing backlash among chronic pain patients and their doctors, who believe medicine’s turn from powerful painkillers is cutting people off from the only thing that eases their suffering. “Our message is we need better medicine,” said Walter Koroshetz of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “The methods we have now are just not effective.” A major effort to put the clues together will begin Tuesday, when pain experts from around the nation meet at the National Institutes of Health. They will review a list of predictors of chronic pain culled from the trove of research and winnow them to about 40 considered the most likely to be involved. Then the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures project will give $40 million to researchers who will study 3,600 patients over 2½ years. The goal is to develop a matrix of biological, psychological and social factors that might predict who is likely to develop chronic pain, and provide it to clinicians.
Tags: Opioid, Epidemic, Walter Koroshetz of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Pain Killers