NIH Grants $945 million Through the NIH HEAL Initiative for Opioid Crisis Research

September 27, 2019
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors

The initiative looks to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded $945 million from its 2019 fiscal year funding to 41 states for grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative). The initiative looks to improve treatments for chronic pain, curb the rates of opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose, and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction, according to a Sept. 26, 2019 press release. 

The initiative will gather expertise from several NIH institutes and centers to aid in:

Translation of research to practice for the treatment of opioid addiction

New strategies to prevent and treat opioid addiction

Enhanced outcomes for infants and children exposed to opioids

Novel medication options for opioid use disorder and overdose

Clinical research in pain management

Preclinical and translational research in pain management.

“President Trump’s approach to the opioid crisis and HHS [Health and Human Services’] strategy have both been based in the best science we have,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, in the press release. “We have effective tools, such as medication-assisted treatment, but we still need better ways to treat opioid addiction and manage pain in an effective, personalized way. This historic investment by NIH was made possible by funding secured from Congress by President Trump and will support our work in the current crisis and lay the work for a healthier future.”

The initiative also provides scientific solutions for several problems that hinder progress on addressing the crisis including, appropriate OUD treatment, the different types of pain associated with OUD, and understanding the risks of long-term opioid therapy, the press release said. 

“It’s clear that a multi-pronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective non-opioid therapies for pain and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, who launched the initiative in early 2018, in the press release. “This unprecedented investment in the NIH HEAL Initiative demonstrates the commitment to reversing this devastating crisis.”

“We need to ensure that people with chronic pain have effective treatment options that don’t expose them to the risk of opioids,” added Rebecca G. Baker, PhD, director, NIH HEAL Initiative, in the press release. “Preventing opioid misuse and addiction through enhanced pain management and improving treatments for OUD and addiction are both critical parts of our trans-NIH response to the opioid crisis.”

Source: NIH