NIH Unveils ‘HEAL Initiative’ Research Plan To Address Opioid Crisis

by Kim Boateng Posted on June 13th, 2018

Bethesda, Maryland, USA: “With a focus on improving treatments for #opioid misuse and addiction and enhancing pain management, the newly unveiled #HEALIntiative research plan provides a scientific roadmap for addressing the opioid crisis. Learn more about HEAL here” the U.S. National Institutes of Health, NIH, wrote in a public post today referencing it’s “Viewpoint”  in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In it’s Viewpoint, the National Institutes of Health leadership detailed components of a newly released research plan for the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative.

“The HEAL Initiative is a trans-NIH effort launched in April 2018 to advance national priorities in addressing the opioid crisis through science. With a focus on two primary areas — improving treatments for opioid misuse and addiction, and enhancing strategies for pain management — the plan describes a multifaceted program encompassing pre-clinical, clinical, drug repurposing, and community-based approaches.”  NIH said.

Critical components of the NIH HEAL research plan for FY2018 include:

  • Developing extended-release and longer-acting opioid use disorder (OUD) medications and new therapies to counteract opioid-induced respiratory depression.
  • Reformulating current medication-assisted treatments (MAT) to promote adherence to recovery programs by Americans on OUD medications.
  • Supporting discovery and development of targets for non-addictive pain management, and therapies to treat those targets.
  • Collecting data to determine what factors lead acute pain to transition to chronic pain and how to block that transition.
  • Partnering with public and private groups to test effective treatments for pain and addiction using HEAL’s clinical trial networks.
  • Expanding NIH’s Advancing Clinical Trials in Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal syndrome (ACT NOW) to assess its prevalence and determine best practices for clinical care of infants with this condition.
  • Advancing new models of care for OUD and test integrated, evidence-based interventions within healthcare and criminal justice settings through the multi-site HEALing Communities initiative.

NIH said that successes from this research include the development of the nasal form of naloxone, the most commonly used nasal spray for reversing opioid overdose, the development of buprenorphine for the treatment of OUD, and evidence for the use of nondrug and mind/body techniques such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and mindfulness meditation to help patients control and manage pain.

The NIH HEAL Initiative will bolster research across NIH to:

Improve Treatments for Opioid Misuse and Addiction

More than 2 million Americans have OUD. Millions more misuse opioids, taking opioid medications longer or in higher doses than prescribed. NIH will support research to provide new strategies for the prevention and treatment of opioid misuse and addiction, that will help people with OUD achieve and maintain a meaningful and sustained recovery.

Enhance Pain Management

More than 25 million Americans suffer from daily chronic pain. NIH will support research to understand how chronic pain develops, making patients susceptible to risks associated with opioid use. NIH will work with partners from the biopharmaceutical industry to develop a data sharing collaborative, new biomarkers for pain, and a clinical trials network for testing new pain therapies. NIH will also enhance the pipeline of treatments for pain and enhance clinical practice for pain management.

NIH outlined initial investments of the $500 million appropriated by Congress for fiscal year 2018 to bolster NIH’s research efforts in addiction and pain.

“This Initiative will build on extensive, well-established NIH research, including basic science of the complex neurological pathways involved in pain and addiction, implementation science to develop and test treatment models, and research to integrate behavioral interventions with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD).” NIH said.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

Leave a Reply