The American Pain Society at Work
Since its beginning, the American Pain Society (APS), www.americanpainsociety.org, has been the professional home of pain scientists in the United States. As such, we have a responsibility to our members and the scientific community at large to stay on top of issues that can negatively impact their ability to conduct research and treat patients in a multidisciplinary setting.
In March 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services released the National Pain Strategy (NPS) which was created with the active participation of a significant number of APS members. The NPS is a confirmation of the value of multidisciplinary care in pain that is evidence-based – the tenet of our Society. Shortly thereafter, APS was the first professional organization to offer a concrete opportunity for implementation of the Strategy with its partnership with Pfizer Independent Grants for Learning and Change. Soon to be announced, three implementation projects funded by grants totaling $2 million will begin, designed to address one or more of the recommendations of the NPS.
With the work of the NPS Implementation plan underway, several other APS members have been active in work groups developing the Federal Pain Research Strategy (FPRS). Implementation of this Strategy will depend on funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others to address identified gaps in the science of pain going forward.
Since 2003, there have been steady decreases to the NIH budget. Now, the Trump Administration wants to cut an additional 19 percent ($5.8 billion) in funding for the NIH. Where there used to be a 30% acceptance rate of pain grant proposals, now, only 18% of grants are funded and additional cuts would mean even fewer grants. This is in a time when pain and other chronic diseases are increasing healthcare costs and destroying American families and prosperity. The limited funding allocated for pain research alone has hampered clinicians' ability to provide optimal, evidence-based care to individuals suffering from chronic pain. The dramatic increase in the prescription of opioids over the last two decades has emerged in the context of limited availability of alternative treatments and insufficient data regarding the long-term safety and efficacy of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain.
APS members have been an integral part of the decade-long quest to legislate the Pain Care Policy Act which has led to an Institute of Medicine report Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research and the creation of the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC).
We have come so far. We in the pain care community must not be complacent in opposing any existential threat to the health and wellness of our nation's population. Support for the ongoing pain related initiatives and adequate funding of the NIH are essential to our future as scientists and pain management professionals.