CTSDMC researchers part of national effort to curb opioid use

Published on October 9, 2019

University of Iowa pain researchers are part of a major national initiative that aims to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.

Kathleen Sluka, UI professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science, has received two grants totaling almost $13 million through The Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or the NIH HEAL Initiative, designed to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhance pain management.

Christopher Coffey, UI professor of biostatistics and director of the Clinical Trials Statistical and Data Management Center (CTSDMC), will collaborate with Sluka and other UI colleagues on a four-year, $6.5 million award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to establish a Clinical Coordinating Center for the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures (A2CPS) Program.

The consortium’s goals are to identify biomarkers and biosignatures—patterns of biomarkers—that can predict whether a person is susceptible or resilient to the development of chronic pain following acute pain. The hope is that being able to identify people at risk of transitioning to chronic pain could improve the management of acute pain by personalizing treatment, reducing reliance on opioids, and identifying new therapeutic targets.

“We have leveraged our wide-ranging expertise in pain science, clinical trials for pain patients, and successful coordination of large multi-site clinical trials to run the Clinical Coordinating Center for the consortium,” Sluka says. “We will lead the development of new protocols, data collection, and logistical and scientific coordination, and help facilitate effective communication between consortium members.”

The second grant awards almost $6.5 million over five years from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to conduct an embedded, pragmatic clinical trial comparing the effectiveness of physical therapy with or without the addition of transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) for patients with fibromyalgia.

The trial will be done in the real-world setting of physical therapy practices and aims to show the feasibility of adding TENS to physical therapy treatment programs and to measure the effect adding TENS has on reducing patients’ pain and helping patients reach specific functional goals with less drug use. This trial is being done in collaboration with Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the CTSDMC.

This article was adapted from a news release issued by the Carver College of Medicine