Penn Medicine researchers received $22 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of the HEAL initiative to address the national opioid crisis. Led by professor David Mandell, and associate professor Hillary Bogner as well as other prominent University of Pennsylvania investigators, the research team will study opioid use disorder and other psychiatric disorders.


With over 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, opioid medication represents the most common pain relief available. However safe and effective non-opioid options for pain management are lacking. The consequence: the use of opioids to deal with acute and chronic pain led to about 10.3 million people who misused opioids in 2018. Hence, NIH’s “Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Initiative” or “HEAL”  was launched in 2018 as an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis.

As part of HEAL, the NIH has awarded issued approximately 375 awards in 41 states as a contribution to support the research and development of scientific-based approaches to manage the opioid crisis.

Whole Person Collaborative Care

Penn Medicine has received five of these HEAL grants totaling more than $22 million. The five initiatives include initiatives such as $11.2 million for New Strategies to Prevent and Treat Opioid addiction led by David Mandell, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Mental Health, Kyle Kampman professor psychiatry and director of the Charles O’Brien Center for the Treatment of Addictions and Hillary R. Bogner, associate professor of family medicine and community health—leading the study of opioid use disorder (OUD) and psychiatric disorders in the primary care setting with a collaborative care model—where licensed clinical social workers will collaborate with 39 primary care practices in Philadelphia to proactively identify, assess and direct patients to treatment options as needed.  

Clinical Trial Pursuing Behavioral & Pharmacologic Interventions

5.5 million was awarded to Laura M. Dember, professor of medicine in renal-electrolyte and hypertension and epidemiology. Penn will serve as the Scientific and Research Data Center for the Hemodialysis Opioid Prescription Effort (HOPE) consortium. The center will offer scientific and operational leadership for the design, implementation and analysis of a randomized clinical trial of behavioral and pharmacologic interventions to reduce pain and opioid use among people with kidney failure receiving maintenance hemodialysis. The clinical trial will be conducted at eight clinical centers that are separately funded by the HEAL initiative.

Early Phase Pain Investigation Clinical Network (EPIPIC-Net)

$931,000 was allocated to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and six additional Penn Medicine centers to serve as specialized care centers or “hubs” for them NIH’s Early Phase Pain Investigation Clinical Network (EPIPIC-Net) led by associate professor John Farrar. These specialized Clinical Centers offer the infrastructure to implement high-quality, comprehensive studies of patients with well-defined pain conditions, in addition to the design and performance of two clinical trials to test promising new treatments for pain. Penn Medicine will aid EPPIC-Net to make clinical, neuroimaging, biomarker and preclinical data, not to mention biosamples available via public access data and biospecimen repositories.

Proving Success of Opioid Detoxification

An additional $4 million goes to the study of how to improve the success of opioid detoxification with a focus on the transition to extended-release injectable naltrexone (XR-NTX), a medication that reduces opioid relapse and overdose risk.

For the other activities, follow the link below to the source

Lead Research/Investigators

David Mandell, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Mental Health

Kyle Kampman, professor psychiatry and director of the Charles O’Brien Center for the Treatment of Addictions  

Hillary R. Bogner, associate professor of family medicine and community health

Laura M. Dember, professor of medicine in renal-electrolyte and hypertension and epidemiology

John Farrar, associate professor of epidemiology

J. Richard Landis, professor of biostatistics

Michael Ashburn, director of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care

George E. Woody, professor in the department of psychiatry

Call to Action:  Most families in the U.S. have a loved one that has fallen to opioid use disorder—the NIH HEAL initiative is worth monitoring for those professionals seeking to understand what kinds of programs and research appear to be making a difference. TrialSite News algorithms monitor these programs.

Source: University of Pennsylvania Almanac

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