The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC), the nation’s highest pain policy advisory committee, held its biannual meeting Oct. 23 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, MD.  The IPRCC is the committee that oversaw the development of the National Pain Strategy, as well as the recently released Federal Pain Research Strategy. U.S. Pain Foundation’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg, a member of the IPRCC, was in attendance.

Dr. Francis Collins, NIH director, spoke about an important new initiative he is spearheading that would involve public-private partnerships between the NIH and pharmaceutical corporations to address both chronic pain and opioid use disorder.  He acknowledged that both of these conditions are critical public health challenges facing our nation and that two large projects are being planned. Project One will focus on new formulations to treat substance use disorder and Project Two will focus on accelerating the development of non-addictive pain therapies. Collins said that he was encouraged that 33 companies have expressed interest in taking part and he anticipates that project plans will be formulated by December.

Another important development discussed at the meeting is that the Office of Strategic Planning at the NIH is considering a “Common Fund” project on pain that would focus on understanding the transition from acute to chronic pain–with a goal of identifying patients at high-risk for developing chronic pain. Common Fund projects are competitive and are awarded to research proposals that are considered transformative, complex, novel, are short-term (five to ten years), require a high level of trans-NIH coordination and whose findings would create a significant impact.

Common Fund projects garner significant investments by the NIH, potentially in the tens of millions of dollars. At the meeting, Steinberg asked Collins what the chances are that pain would be chosen for the Common Fund project, pointing out that the Office of Pain Policy and Pain Consortium have applied many times in the past, but have never received the grant.

Collins replied that chronic pain is an important topic, especially at this time and it was being given very serious consideration.

There were many other important and timely pain policy developments discussed at the meeting including the formation of the Pain Management Task Force called for in the newly enacted Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the Food and Drug Administration’s future opioid-related activities, such as expanding the REMS prescriber training programs. To learn more about the IPRCC, including the agenda for this meeting, visit: