For immediate release: August 9, 2013
Contact: Chuck Weber - 262.473.3018
Inadequate Pain Research Funding Hampers Effort to Find Safer and More Effective Treatments
American Pain Society Seeking NIH Funding Increases and New Private Grant Sources
CHICAGO, August 9, 2013 — Pain is the most common and costly health problem in the United States, but allocations of public and private research dollars for pain studies lag far behind funding levels for several other diseases, which impact significantly fewer people and have far less economic impact. According to the American Pain Society (APS), just one percent of research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is dedicated to pain research, even though some 100 million Americans have chronic pain, as the Institute of Medicine has reported.
“Given the funding cutbacks in Washington, it is time to align and shift biomedical research funding priorities more closely with the most serious unmet medical needs in our society, and improving treatment for chronic pain is at the top of the list,” said APS President Roger B. Fillingim, PhD. “Pain is responsible for 10 percent of all health care spending, and this is sure to increase as aging and obesity continue to take their toll on our population. Existing treatments provide adequate pain relief in only a minority of pain patients and new therapies are badly needed. These new therapies could evolve from discoveries in the last decade that have expanded knowledge about the pathophysiology and neurobiology of pain. But investments in biomedical research must be increased to bring these discoveries closer to yielding effective new treatments,” he said.
Health economists from Johns Hopkins University reported in The Journal of Pain in 2012 that the annual cost of chronic pain is as high as $635 billion a year, which is more than the yearly costs for cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS combined. Also, adults with pain report missing more days from work than people without pain. Pain negatively impacts three components of productivity: work days missed, number of annual hours worked and hourly wages.
Fillingim noted that in the last 40 years significant payoffs resulted from massive research funding for cancer and cardiovascular disease, and this experience proves that biomedical research offers the best hope for the estimated 100 million Americans who are affected by chronic pain conditions.
“For example, in 2012, the NIH spent $5.6 billion on cancer research compared to $396 million on pain research. Predictably, excellent progress has been made in preventing and treating cancer, evidenced by improved survival rates. It is important to keep in mind that medical expenses for chronic pain are three-fold higher than for cancer, and chronic pain affects 100 million people, while cancer affects 13.7 million. Yet funding for cancer research is 15 times greater than for pain research. While prevalence and economic impact are not the only factors that should drive decisions about research funding, it seems clear that pain research is disproportionately underfunded given the scope and cost of chronic pain.”
William Maixner, DDS, PhD, a prominent pain researcher at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, testified this year before the U.S. Senate Health Education Labor Committee and explained that inadequate research funding has been a major barrier to bringing relief to chronic pain sufferers.
“There is a major mismatch between NIH finding and the direct and indirect costs of chronic pain. Annual Medicare costs for treatment of pain-related conditions represent 30 percent of the treatment costs for all common diseases. A greater share of federal funding for pain research is needed, and can be provided by additional targeted funding to the NIH, or a portion of allocated NIH appropriations should be devoted to pain research,” Maixner told the Committee.
Maixner also said government grants are not the only source for pain research support and the newly formed Interagency Pain Committee at NIH should be charged with developing and monitoring public-private funding opportunities. “Through the years, cancer research certainly has benefited from private foundation and philanthropic support, and pain scientists are hopeful that more private funding sources will emerge and support both clinical and basic science studies in pain,” he said.
“Despite disproportionately low federal government funding for pain research, in the last decade there have been significant advances in knowledge about multiple pain mechanisms, how the brain regulates pain stimuli, the impact of genetics, and potential implications of these discoveries for developing new pain treatments,” said Mark Jensen, PhD, editor of The Journal of Pain, a leading pain research publication.
“The current treatments that are available are not adequate to address the problem of chronic pain. Research that helps increase understanding of multiple pain mechanisms, if sufficiently funded, will lead to new treatment approaches, such as highly targeted new drug therapies,” he said.
Jensen added that new studies should be undertaken to learn more about how to improve outcomes of existing pain treatment in certain groups of patients, and to delve deeper into the neurobiological mechanisms that allow acute pain to progress to chronic pain conditions. “We are beginning to learn the biological processes that drive chronic pain and distinguish it from acute pain, but much more research is required to determine which treatment approaches are most effective in acute and chronic pain.”
Fillingim said APS and other pain groups are advocating for increased pain research funding at NIH, but APS also is seeking new private research grant sources. The organization already has created two pain research grant programs funded by private foundations.
“This private support has enabled APS to help funnel research grants to promising investigators and encourage the best and brightest young researchers to devote their work to pain. If more grant sources become available, pain research will be more attractive to new generations of biomedical researchers,” said Fillingim.
About the American Pain Society
Based in Chicago, IL, the American Pain Society (APS) is a multidisciplinary community that brings together a diverse group of scientists, clinicians and other professionals to increase the knowledge of pain and transform public policy and clinical practice to reduce pain-related suffering. APS was founded in 1978 with 510 charter members. From the outset, the group was conceived as a multidisciplinary organization. The Board of Directors includes physicians, nurses, psychologists, basic scientists, pharmacists, policy analysts and others. For more information on APS, visit www.americanpainsociety.org.