How Do Primary Care Physicians Handle Opioids For Patients Seeking Chronic Pain Relief? Interview with:
Laura Militello
Unveil, LLC
Applied Decision Science, LLC  What is the background for this study?

Response: Little is known about how primary care clinicians’ (PCC) approach chronic pain management in the current climate of rapidly changing guidelines and the growing body of research about risks and benefits of opioid therapy. When it comes to pain management, primary care clinicians (PCCs) find themselves in a somewhat unexpected role. Few conditions intersect with a range of specialties (i.e. mental health, orthopedics, endocrinology, etc.), disability, and aberrant behavior in the way that chronic pain does. PCCs find themselves in a position where they are asked to assess and diagnose sometimes vague and diffuse pain, and determine appropriate treatment often before the underlying cause of the pain is well-understood.

A recent cultural shift in the U.S. has created a situation in which a formerly default treatment, prescription opioid therapy, is no longer considered safe or appropriate for many patients with chronic pain. The addictive qualities and overall safety profile of opioid medications have come into sharp focus in recent years, leading to a push to reduce opioid use while also trying to achieve pain relief with little guidance for PCCs about how to manage this change in treatment plans. Others have documented the uneasiness many experience in managing patients with chronic pain. One participant in our study described the sense that opioid prescribing sometimes extends into unexpected and disconcerting territory in this way: “I never signed up to be an enforcer.” The complexity and moral uncertainty (6) associated with managing patients with chronic pain is an important backdrop for the findings from this study.

Are Invasive Procedures Effective for Chronic Pain Relief? A Systematic Review Interview with:
Wayne B. Jonas, MD
Executive Director
Samueli Integrative Health Programs, H&S Ventures,
Alexandria, VA  What is the background for this study?

Response: The search for non-drug approaches to chronic pain is a major recommendation in many recent guidelines for both pain management and reduction in the use of opioids. Surgical and invasive procedures are non-drug approaches often used for pain conditions like back pain and arthritis, so good evidence is needed to determine the safety and efficacy of these procedures. Properly done randomized, placebo-controlled trials are the best way (the gold standard) to get that evidence, so we did a thorough evaluation of such research, using standard systematic review and meta-analysis methods.

Study Finds Chronic Pain Patients Used More Opioids For Pain Relief When COVID-19 Cancelled Elective Procedures Interview with:

Dr. Shantha Ganesan MD
 Pain Medicine Specialist
Kings County Hospital Center

David Kim, MD, PGY-2
SUNY Downstate Department of Anesthesiology  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: The opioid epidemic is a serious national crisis that has detrimental impacts on both public health, and social and economic welfare. Therefore, any efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, including minimizing or weaning opioid prescriptions, and using other modes of analgesia when possible are undeniably necessary in this day and age. With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare providers abruptly changed their care delivery. In-person clinic visits were changed to telemedicine, and elective cases were cancelled.

Due to a growing concern that chronic pain patients may have limited resources from this unprecedented time of social and economic shutdown, organizations such as American Medical Association and Drug Enforcement Administration have supported implementing measures to ensure these patients achieve adequate pain control by increasing access to pain medications, but at the cost of reducing barriers and restrictions to controlled substances. Given the cancellation of elective interventional pain management procedures and relaxed regulations on controlled substances during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reasonable to suspect a dramatic increase in opioid prescription during this time.

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What is the Biological Basis of Acupuncture for Systemic Inflammation Modulation? Interview with:
Professor, Neurobiology, Cancer Biology
Harvard Medical School
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: This study aimed to understand the biological basis behind acupuncture practice. Modern randomized clinical trials have demonstrated the efficacy of acupuncture practice in treating certain human diseases, such as gastrointestinal disorders and chronic pain, but the underlying biological basis still poorly understood.

Our hypothesis is that acupuncture can drive the somatosensory autonomic pathways to modulate body physiology. A key innovation of this study is the development of new genetic tools to manipulate different autonomic nervous pathways, and we then used the severe systemic inflammation (cytokine storms) induced by bacterial endotoxins as the experimental model.

We found that electroacupuncture stimulation (ES) can drive distinct autonomic pathways in acupoint- and stimulation-intensity-dependent manners. Low intensity ES at hindlimb regions drives the vagal-adrenal axis, producing anti-inflammatory effects that depend on adrenal chromaffin cells. High intensity ES at the abdomen activates splenic noradrenergic neurons via the spinal-sympathetic axis, and this activation produces either anti- or pro-inflammatory effects, dependent on adrenergic receptor profiles under different diseases states

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Deprescribing Opioids Used For Chronic Non-Cancer Pain Relief Interview with:
Dr Stephanie Mathieson PhD
NHMRC Health Professional Research Early Career Fellow
The University of SydneyFaculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney School of Public Health

Dr Stephanie Mathieson is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, The University of Sydney. Her National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Health Professional Research Early Career Fellow is focused around reducing the opioid epidemic in Australia.

Dr. MATHIESON  What is the background for this study?

Response: This study aimed to review the current evidence of the efficacy of interventions designed to reduce/cease the prescription of, or the use of, opioid analgesics in patients with chronic non-cancer pain.

As clinical practice guidelines now discourage the initial prescription of opioid analgesics for chronic non-cancer pain, clinicians need to know which opioid dose reduction methods are most effective and safe for deprescribing opioid analgesics in their patients.  What are the main findings?

Response: Our systematic review extended the previous body of literature by incorporating five new randomised trials; however, clinical and statistical heterogeneity prevented meta-analysis. There were ten patient-focused interventions (i.e. aimed at reducing a patient’s opioid dose), and two clinician focused interventions (i.e. aimed at changing the clinician’s behaviour). Overall, our review was unable to recommend any one opioid analgesic deprescribing strategy in patients with chronic pain due to the small number of trials and heterogeneity.

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Study Finds Patients Feel Empowered By Interventions for Pain Relief Interview with:

Johan Hambraeus, MD
Board certified in anesthesiology, family medicine & Pain management
Department of Epidemiology and Global Health
Umeå University, Sweden  What is the background for this study?

Response: When working with interventional pain management a striking feature is that all procedures are painful. It is often discussed about sedation before procedures, but whether to provide sedation seems to be more based on the local tradition than on facts. And it is not seldom that patients describe that they have phobic fear of needles, but despite this they cope with the interventional pain management and all the painful procedures.

Therefore we wanted to understand how it is felt and how the patients describe their experiences.

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Which Back Pain Patients Get Pain Relief from Yoga? Interview with:
Eric J. Roseen, DC, MSc
Department of Family Medicine
Boston University School of Medicine
Department of Rehabilitation Science
Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions
Boston, MA 02215  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: The Back to Health Study is a noninferiority randomized controlled trial of yoga, physical therapy, and back pain education for chronic low back pain. Participants were recruited from a SafetyNet hospital (Boston Medical Center) and seven affiliated federally-qualified community health centers. Participants reflected the population served by this health system, they were predominately low-income and non-white.

The yoga intervention consisted of 12 group-based, weekly, 75-minute, hatha yoga classes incorporating poses, relaxation and meditation exercises, yoga breathing and yoga philosophy. Thirty minutes of daily home practice was encouraged and supported with at-home yoga supplies. The physical therapy intervention consisted of 15 one-on-one 60-minute appointments over 12 weeks. During each appointment, the physical therapist utilized the Treatment-Based Classification Method and supervised aerobic exercise, while providing written instructions and supplies to continue exercises at home. The self-care intervention consisted of reading from a copy of The Back Pain Handbook, a comprehensive resource describing evidence-based self-management strategies for chronic lower back pain including stretching, strengthening, and the role of psychological and social factors. Participants received check-in calls regarding the reading every three weeks.

The main findings from the trial published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that yoga was non-inferior to physical therapy in terms of pain and function outcomes.

In this study published in Pain Medicine, we wanted to dig deeper and understand the characteristics of patients who tended to do better no matter what treatment they received (i.e., predictors) and characteristics that modified the likelihood that they would improve with a particular treatment (i.e., treatment effect modifiers). This type of information is useful to patients and clinicians who are trying to decide which type of treatment may be best for a unique individual experiencing back pain.

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Pain Relief Patch Significantly Reduced Moderate to Severe Chronic Pain Interview with:
Peter Hurwitz
Clarity Science, LLC

Clarity Science Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Clarity Science)  What is the background for this study?

Response: Over the past several years, there has been a big push from healthcare professionals and patients to identify alternative pain management treatments and multimodal approaches that have been shown to have minimal side effects for those who experience mild to moderate and chronic pain conditions. These strategies may include non-pharmacological and pharmacological therapies. Topical therapies have been shown to address various pain conditions with minimal side effects as compared to oral over-the-counter (OTC) agents, prescription NSAIDs, and prescription opioids. T

his IRB-approved study evaluated whether a topical analgesic pain-relieving patch containing methyl salicylate (10%), Menthol (6%) and Camphor (3.1%) could reduce pain severity and improve function in patients over the course of 14 days.

Which Older Adults Use Cannabis for Chronic Pain Relief? Interview with:
Julie Bobitt, PhD

Director, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Champaign, IL. 61820

Dr. Julie Bobitt
Dr. Julie Bobitt  What is the background for this study?

Response: Our previous research found that older adults, who we interviewed, used cannabis primarily for pain related reasons and that they were reporting using cannabis to reduce or altogether stop their use of opioids.  We wanted to further study this and we wanted to see if there were any differences between self-reported pain in non-cannabis users vs. cannabis users and then if there were differences between groups who used cannabis alone versus those who used opioids alone, versus cannabis in combination with opioids. 

Back Pain: Web-Based Self-help Intervention to Prevent Depression Interview with:

Lasse B. Sander, PhD
Institute of Psychology
Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Psychotherapy
Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg
Freiburg, Germany

Lasse B. Sander, PhD
Institute of Psychology
Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Psychotherapy
Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg
Freiburg, Germany
Dr. Sander  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: People with chronic pain have a significantly increased risk of developing depression. When depression and pain collide, this is a considerable burden for those affected. In addition, pain management is made more difficult due to comorbidity.

We have known for some years now that the onset of depression can be delayed or even completely prevented by means of early psychological therapies. However, until now there has been no scalable application option available for routine healthcare.

In our study we were able to show that this can be achieved by a digital self-help intervention.