Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) and PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby deliver remarks during the briefing.

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) estimates 100 million American adults are affected by chronic pain, a condition associated with multiple comorbidities and reduced overall quality of life. Many who suffer from chronic pain are either not receiving adequate treatment, or who rely on opioid medications, where potential misuse has led to over 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016. In a 2017 report, NAM aptly describes the conundrum facing the health care system, "The very real problems of under-diagnosis and under-treatment of pain are valid concerns, but it would be a mistake to infer that greater utilization of opioids would ameliorate these problems."

There is evidence to support the efficacy of alternative treatments for chronic pain—including cognitive behavioral, physical, and pharmacologic therapies—what we don’t know is how to implement these strategies in different populations with different care needs and goals. Chronic pain patients are individuals, each with a unique set of pain management needs. Comparative clinical information is needed to determine what works, for whom, and when.

Congress is currently considering legislation—The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018—that includes provisions encouraging the use of non-addictive alternatives to opioids. It is crucial that Congress understand the value of research in building an evidence-base that can inform the wider use and implementation of safer chronic pain treatment modalities in real-world clinical settings.


  • Joe Selby, MD, MPH
    Executive Director, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA)
    Member, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee
  • Robert McDonough, MD
    Senior Director for Clinical Policy Research and Development, Aetna
  • Beth Darnall, PhD
    Clinical Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine
    Principal Investigator, PCORI-funded research study
  • Lynn DeBar, PhD, MPH
    Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute
    Principal Investigator, PCORI-funded research study
  • Kevin Roy, MBA
    Chief Public Policy Officer, Shatterproof
  • Jonah Stulberg, MD, PhD
    General Surgeon and Health Services Researcher, Northwestern Memorial Hospital
    Fellow, American College of Surgeons

Related Information & Reading Material

  • "Scientific American" article highlights two PCORI-funded projects on opioid medicines