NIH: Office of Disease Prevention

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The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain, Pathways to Prevention. September 29-30, 2014

Chronic pain is a public health problem estimated to affect more than 100 million people in the United States and about 20–30% of the population worldwide. The prevalence of persistent pain is expected to rise in the near future as the incidence of associated diseases including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, arthritis, and cancer increases in the aging U.S. population.

Opioids are powerful analgesics that are commonly used and found to be effective for many types of pain. However, opioids can produce significant side effects, and long-term opioid use can result in physical dependence, making it difficult to discontinue use even when the original cause of pain is no longer present.

On September 29–30, 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened the Pathways to Prevention (P2P) Workshop: The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain. The purpose of this workshop was to better understand the long-term effectiveness and potential risks of opioids for treating chronic pain and to assess the available scientific evidence. An impartial, independent panel drafted a report that identified research gaps and made recommendations for future research priorities. Participants in the workshop from the NIH included representatives from:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
  • NIH Pain Consortium
  • The Office of Disease Prevention (ODP)

On March 9, 2016, a group of representatives from various federal agencies convened at a Federal Partners meeting to review the panel report from the P2P workshop and identify possible opportunities for collaboration. The discussion at the meeting was centered on needs identified in the workshop panel report and included next steps the NIH could take to advance the science on the use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. The participants in the Federal Partners meeting included representatives from:

  • NIH Institutes
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Federal Partners meeting report summarizes the discussion and recommendations generated at this meeting.