I hope 2024 is off to a great start for you. Some exciting updates to share with you related to our mission to alleviate human suffering and reduce pain disparities. As you know, mainly we come at this through the angle of improving access to pain care. We also seek to integrate the patient voice, as well as their needs and wants into all projects and studies:

What’s New: PROGRESS Study Updates: Our $11.2M national PCORI-funded PROGRESS study is comparing two evidence-based pain relief skills treatments for chronic pain (online 1-session Empowered Relief® vs. online 8-session low-literacy cognitive behavioral therapy). The PROGRESS study includes 6 study sites and we are enrolling 1,650 adults with chronic pain nationally.  In 2023 we received the terrific news that we were selected for $2.3M in supplemental research funding to increase diversity and advance health equity in our active study. Already PROGRESS includes 150 patient advisors, and the supplemental funding allows us to more deeply embed patient advisors into the study operations (led by Jessica Clifton PhD, Matt Cheung RPh, and Emma Adair). Supplemental funding also allows us to test our two treatments in three new understudied subgroups of people with chronic pain: pelvic pain, Lupus-related pain, and young adults (18-23 years old).

Why It Matters: Evidence is scant to absent for behavioral pain treatment efficacy in our subgroups (pelvic pain, Lupus-related pain, and young adults), and especially for online treatments. Our results will address this evidence gap for key underrepresented patients and clarify for whom does which treatment work best. We are very pleased to be studying Lupus, a rare disease that disproportionately impacts Black, Hispanic, and Asian families, with Lupus expert Dr. Lola Falasinnu. For young adults, we hope our study treatments can help favorably alter the trajectory of chronic pain in young adulthood, enhance developmental successes, and reduce overmedicalization. We are excited to partner with Dr. Laura Simons on this effort.

What’s New: EMPOWER Study Updates: In late 2023 we moved into data analysis for my second PCORI-funded national study, called EMPOWER. For the past 6 years we have been studying 1,350 adults taking daily prescription opioids for chronic pain. Specifically, we have been studying voluntary patient-centered opioid tapering, a method we first published on in 2018. Later this year we will publish our study findings, which will shed light on how to safely and effectively reduce opioid doses when desired by patients, and also whether behavioral pain treatments (CBT vs. chronic pain self-management) offer meaningful support and symptom reduction. In parallel, we have been studying 750 patients in the U.S. taking daily prescription opioids, and we will be reporting on their experiences of the medications (benefits, side effects), medical care, stigma, and barriers to accessing prescribing medications (The VALUE study). The VALUE study was developed in partnership with multiple patient stakeholders who helped shape every aspect of the study to include the issues that are most important to them.

Why It Matters: We will be bringing forward data on the largest randomized U.S. prescription opioid tapering study to date, with results intended to inform best practices. The VALUE study will elucidate the patient voice, experiences, and challenges related to prescription opioids and accessing their pain care.

What’s New: Empowered Relief® Updates: International adoption of Empowered Relief® continues with 1,100 certified instructors in 26 countries delivering the 1-session intervention in 7 languages (8th language on the way). Due to popular request from a burgeoning group of VA certified instructors, we developed a Veteran-tailored version of Empowered Relief® in partnership with multiple VA clinicians and Canadian stakeholders. We also created a VA-specific online portal for all VA clinicians who are certified instructors.

Four other noteworthy developments:

  1. Laura Simons, Lauren Harrison and colleagues’ Empowered Relief® for Youth is in active testing with results expected in 2024.
  2. In February we launch the first study of Empowered Relief® in Spanish-speaking patients.
  3. We have partnered with the Marfan Foundation to study Empowered Relief® in people with Marfan and Marfan-like diseases.
  4. We have partnered with the California Prison System to bring Empowered Relief® to incarcerated patients with pain.

Why It Matters: Keeping pace with rapid adoption of Empowered Relief®, we have been working to meet stakeholder demand for Veteran and youth tailored versions. Our new studies are keenly focused on collecting evidence for underserved and underrepresented populations (Spanish, Marfan, and patients in corrections settings).

As always, thanks for your interest and support!

Best wishes,