Leaders of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Tuesday published an outline of how the nation’s medical research agency plans to spend the $500 million Congress gave it to fight the opioid epidemic.
Specifically, the NIH will focus on improving treatments for opioid misuse and addiction and bolster strategies to manage pain, heads of the NIH wrote in an opinion piece published in the American Medical Association's JAMA.
NIH Director Francis Collins; Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, wrote the piece.
The effort will be conducted through the NIH’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative.
“Like most other pioneering scientific initiatives, HEAL will focus on a range of objectives, from short-term goals to research priorities that will take longer to bear fruit,” the trio wrote. “Yet, all will be aimed at the same ultimate vision: a nation of people with far less disabling pain and opioid addiction.”
Congress passed a two-year budget earlier this year that included $6 billion to address the opioid epidemic and mental health. NIH’s budget received $500 million for fiscal 2018 specifically to combat the opioid epidemic, which is leading to an estimated 115 American deaths per day.
More than 25 million American adults have daily pain, and more than 2 million have an opioid addiction, the trio wrote.
Lawmakers and the administration are examining measures to stem this tide. Some ideas have centered around developing nonaddictive ways to curb pain, so the number of patients prescribed opioids can decrease.
Among NIH’s research, it will evaluate improving opioid overdose reversal medications and ways to reformulate existing treatments to help improve adherence.