January 26, 2015 — Earlier this month, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) made a statement in response to a new report released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regarding multidisciplinary approaches to chronic pain. An excerpt of the NIH press release about the report is posted below, followed by the ACA’s comments.
NIH panel cites need for individualized, patient-centered approach to treat and monitor chronic pain
An independent panel convened by the NIH concluded that individualized, patient-centered care is needed to treat and monitor the estimated 100 million Americans living with chronic pain.
To achieve this aim, the panel recommends more research and development around the evidence-based, multidisciplinary approaches needed to balance patient perspectives, desired outcomes, and safety.
“Persons living with chronic pain have often been grouped into a single category, and treatment approaches have been generalized with little evidence to support this practice,” said David B. Reuben, MD, panel chair and professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Chronic pain spans a multitude of conditions, presents in different ways, and requires an individualized, multifaceted approach.”
Chronic pain is often treated with prescription opioids, but the panel noted widespread concern with this practice.
Although some patients benefit from such treatment, there are no long-term studies on the effectiveness of opioids related to pain, function, or quality of life. There is not enough research on the long-term safety of opioid use.
However, there are well-documented potential adverse outcomes, including substantial side effects (e.g., nausea, mental clouding, respiratory depression), physical dependence, and overdose—with approximately 17,000 opioid-related overdose deaths reported in 2011.
“Clearly, there are patients for whom opioids are the best treatment for their chronic pain. However, for others, there are likely to be more effective approaches,” Reuben said. “The challenge is to identify the conditions for which opioid use is most appropriate, the alternatives for those who are unlikely to benefit from opioids, and the best approach to ensuring that every patient’s individual needs are met by a patient-centered health care system.”
The panel identified several barriers to implementing evidence-based, patient-centered care. For example, many clinicians do not have tools to assess patient measures of pain, quality of life, and adverse outcomes. Primary care practices often do not have access to multidisciplinary experts, such as pain management specialists.
Insurance plans may not cover team-based, integrative approaches that promote comprehensive, holistic care. In addition, some plans do not offer effective non-opioid drugs as first-line treatment for chronic pain, thus limiting a clinician’s ability to explore other avenues of treatment.
Once a health provider has made the decision to use opioids, there are insufficient data on drug characteristics, dosing strategies, or tapering to effectively guide clinical care.
The panel’s final report, which identifies future research and clinical priorities, incorporates the panel’s assessment of an evidence report, expert presentations, audience input, and public comments. The panel’s report, which is an independent report and not a policy statement of the NIH or the federal government, is now available online.
ACA responds to NIH expert panel’s final report
ACA president Anthony Hamm, DC, issued the following comment on the report discussed above, released by an independent NIH panel about the need for individualized, patient-centered care to treat and monitor the estimated 100 million Americans living with chronic pain:
“ACA commends NIH for recognizing the value of an individual, patient-centered and multi-faceted approach to managing chronic pain. It is also interesting to read the conclusion from the panel that widespread opioid use does not provide an effective single approach for the chronic pain patient. Services provided by chiropractic physicians, including those being delivered in integrated community health centers, have proven effective with respect to patient satisfaction. ACA encourages NIH to study all complementary and integrated approaches to chronic pain management, including chiropractic. These integrated approaches can offer a higher degree of patient safety and reduce the use of medications.”