The Pendulum Has Swung Too Far

Treating Pain in Primary Care

Linda Brookes, MSc


February 22, 2019

In This Article

Hope on the Horizon?

There was little optimism among the physicians we spoke with that new, nonaddictive pharmacologic therapies for chronic pain patients were on the horizon. "I would love it if pharmaceutical companies were researching alternatives to opioids, but they are really not," Fox maintains. Hsu agrees: "I don't see any new breakthroughs over the next 5 years, which is demoralizing for our patients and caregivers."

But there may be hope. In 2018, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative. This three-pronged initiative will fund research to better understand the complex pathways involved in plan, develop and test treatment models, and study behavioral interventions for opioid use disorder.

The NIH HEAL Initiative also includes funding to develop safe, effective, and nonaddictive, device-based technologies for focal diagnosis, rehabilitation, and therapy of chronic pain. "I think that in this rapidly emerging era of new technology we are going to see the use of digital tools to help patients with chronic pain," Reid predicts. "We are looking at the role of technology as a way of improving pain care in aging adults, not just to monitor side effects and adherence issues, but also to deliver therapies.[48]

He believes that aging baby boomers will be the first adopters of many of these tools because they are more "tech savvy" than current seniors aged 80 and over. "Stay tuned, because the NIH is very committed to trying to understand the extent to which these tools can improve health and health outcomes in an aging population."

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