Enduring Our Pain
October has been a busy month for clinicians, researchers, and commercial vendors involved with neuromodulation for chronic pain. Clinical societies, conference organizers, regulators, and funding organizations have all recognized the importance of developing alternatives to opioids for treating pain. Since we first sounded the alarm in this space five years ago [NBR Sep14 p2], the public has come to realize that the apparent cost benefit that pharmaceuticals had over device interventions was a cruel hoax at best. It’s only appropriate that journalist Sam Quinones’ book Dreamland, which chronicles the drug industry’s efforts to push opioids on physicians and patients, was selected by Goodreads as one of the top 10 true-crime books of all time.
At the Neuromodulation: The Science meeting in Napa, CA earlier this month, pain doctors and investigators explored the mechanisms of action behind neuromodulation therapies for treating chronic pain. A session devoted to commercialization of new pain therapies featured executives from Medtronic, Boston Scientific, and Nevro, who each gave their thoughts on promoting innovation in new devices.
At the Congress of Neurological Surgeons meeting in San Francisco, later this month, pain doctors rallied to the defense of SCS in a session with the unfortunate title “The Case Against Spinal Cord Stimulation.” But the society selected as its 2019 Pain Paper of the Year an article titled “Spinal Cord Stimulation for the Treatment of Chronic Pain Reduces Opioid Use and Results in Superior Clinical Outcomes When Used Without Opioids” published in Neurosurgery from a team at Albany Medical Center
At the annual meeting of the California Society of Interventional Pain Physicians in Lake Tahoe, CA—also this month—Lawrence Poree from UCSF presented results of the Evoke study of closed-loop SCS for treating chronic pain, which was named the top industry-ranked abstract at the meeting.
All of this comes on the heels of the NIH’s announcement of $945 million in awards from the HEAL initiative (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term), which helps fund neuromodulation therapies for treating chronic pain and opioid abuse [NBR Sep19 p1]. Valencia, CA startup Neuronoff, Inc.—along with investigators from University of Wisconsin, Pitt, Michigan, and Case—was one such beneficiary, receiving $2.2 million in funding. At the Neurotech Leaders Forum in San Francisco next month, Nick Langhals from the NIH will speak on a panel devoted to pain neuromodulation.
It’s encouraging to witness this renewed attention on neuromodulation as a therapy for treating chronic pain. It’s our hope that this moment in the limelight endures for some time.
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