The Biomedical Research Community Responds to the Opioids Crisis

Opioid addiction, misuse and overdose is an ongoing and rapidly evolving public health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 63,000 people died of drug overdose in 2016, and the majority of these deaths involved opioids. Medication-assisted treatments (MAT) for opioid use disorders (OUD) are available but underutilized, relapse rates are still very high and duration of treatment is not well understood. More than 25 million adults suffer from chronic pain that may not be alleviated by currently available analgesics including opioid medications. NIH research has significantly advanced our understanding of OUD and pain, but alternatives to treat OUD and prevent and reverse overdoses are still limited, and new, non-addictive pain medicines are needed.

As part of a larger national effort to address the opioid crisis, the FNIH led an effort to plan a potential public-private scientific partnership that includes the NIH, FDA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and more than 30 biopharmaceutical companies. The plan included strategies to:

  • Enhance the range of medication options to treat opioid use disorders (OUD) and prevent/reverse overdoses, and
  • Develop new medications for pain relief, including safer, more effective, and non-addictive medications for pain. 

Following a series of scientific meetings sponsored by NIH in the summer of 2017, the FNIH convened more than 100 experts in the fields of opioid misuse and addiction, pain, behavioral health, imaging and neurobiology in Rockville, Maryland on December 12-13, 2017 to agree on the specific agenda for the potential of the partnership.The meeting agenda may be found here and the meeting summary may be found here.

The results of the meeting have been used to inform NIH's HEAL initiative, which NIH is now leading. For more information about HEAL, please visit: https://www.nih.gov/research-training/medical-research-initiatives/heal-initiative.

Related Materials

NIH Letter to FNIH

FNIH Response to NIH