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VHA Pain Management, Opioid Safety, and PDMP

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Featured VA Research

Featured VA Research

New and exciting research is always happening at the VA. Here is some recent research that advances our understanding of pain in Veterans.

Recent Research that Advances our Understanding of Pain in Veterans.

• The Center for Neuroscience and Regeneration Research *, a collaboration between VA and its partners, conducts biomedical research that contributes to the scientific understanding of pain, especially nerve pain. The center is dedicated to molecular and cell-based discoveries on nervous system function

• VA’s Pain, Research, Informatics, Medical Comorbidities, and Education (PRIME) Center, part of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, conducts research to improve pain care and sponsors education activities for Veterans and clinical staff.

• The Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida, is a nationally known center for chronic pain research, treatment, and education. The CPRP offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs to help Veterans manage their chronic pain conditions.

• The Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) is a VA HSR&D Center of Innovation whose mission is to advance the quality and equity of health care for vulnerable Veteran populations. CHERP is examining the associations of socioeconomic status and geographic residence with pain management in Veterans

• The Pain Management and Patient Aligned Care CREATE encourages VA investigators to collaborate with partners to enhance Veterans’ access to pain care, to use health information technology to promote better pain care for Veterans, and to build sustainable improvements in pain care.

• Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain. In this randomized clinical trial that included 240 patients, the use of opioid vs nonopioid medication therapy did not result in significantly better pain-related function over 12 months. See the full study from the  *.  What works better for long-term pain? Opioids or Non-Opioids? (PDF)


• Increasing opioid dosing does not seem to improve chronic pain, found a study by VA Portland researchers and colleagues. Out of 500 patients with chronic pain in the study, about 20% had their opioid dose increased. But only 3% of those patients showed meaningful improvement in pain. (Pain*, June 2020)

• Veterans with musculoskeletal disorder and higher body weight are more likely to report experiencing pain, according to a VA Boston study. The higher patients’ body mass index, the more likely they were to report pain. Patients with moderate obesity were 9% more likely to report pain, and those with severe obesity had 23% higher odds of pain compared to patients with lower weight. (Pain Medicine *, March 18, 2020)

• Non-drug therapies may help service members with chronic pain avoid adverse outcomes later in life, found a study by VA Palo Alto researchers. Veterans who received non-drug therapies like acupuncture, biofeedback, or chiropractic care during their service had a significantly lower risk of new-onset alcohol or drug use disorders; poisoning with opioids, barbiturates, or sedatives; and suicidal thoughts and attempts while under VA care. (Journal of General Internal Medicine *, March 2020)

• Rural Veterans receive more opioid prescriptions than urban Veterans, according to an Iowa City VA study. Among nearly 5 million VA patients, rural Veterans received over 30% more opioids than their urban counterparts. The difference may reflect barriers to access to non-medication treatments for chronic pain. (Military Medicine *, Dec. 1, 2019)

• Adding collaborative care to an automated self-management program improved outcomes for Veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain and mood disorders, in a Richard J. Roudebush VA Medical Center study. Patients receiving collaborative care from a team of nurses and physicians who provided regular phone contacts and optimized medication management were more likely to see symptom improvement, compared with those receiving automated self-monitoring and standard care only. (Journal of General Internal Medicine *, September 2019)

• Researchers at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Healthcare System have developed a new drug for pain that has less risk for addiction and overdose compared to currently available opioid medications. The new drug, ZH853, was as effective as morphine at relieving pain in rats. It reduced the length of time the animals felt pain and also had anti-inflammatory effects. (Journal of Neuroinflammation *, May 21, 2019)

We will be adding article that changes quarterly  - return soon to view them..

Researcher and Clinician - Resource Topics of Interest

Tools for Assessment and Recruitment Featured VA Research Funding and Grant Resources  Important Links and Foundational Research 

Literature Alerts for VA Staff

The VA Library Network will provide VA staff an index of recent articles related to opioids and many other areas of interest right to your work mailbox. If you are interested in subscribing to this alert click here.

If you have questions or suggestions for pain-related resources to share, please send an email to VHA Pain Management Webmaster Group. Please do not submit any personal healthcare information. Questions about personal care should be directed to the local VA facility.

Disclaimer: *Links will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.