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Sanford resident leading new opioid study

Sanford Herald - 11/26/2017

Nov. 25--Much has been reported and discussed surrounding the rise of opioid use, opioid addiction and opioid overdose in the U.S. in recent years.

A Sanford resident will soon be leading a study to try to find some relief for sufferers of chronic pain.

Lauren McCormack, vice president of Research Triangle Institute International's Public Health Research Division, is heading up a three-year research effort into two different methods with the hope of finding a way to help wean people off opioids for pain relief.

"This is a large-scale problem right now," McCormack said. "Having a background in public health, any time there's an epidemic we certainly pay attention. This one is affecting so many people in so many ways. Something this big is going to take a multi-prong strategy to try to address it."

The five-year study will cost $9 million and is entirely funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group that gives money for studies such as McCormack's.

"This project was selected for PCORI funding for its potential to fill an important gap in our understanding of long-term opioid therapy and to give people living with chronic pain useful information to help them weigh the effectiveness and safety of their care options," PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby said in a news release. "We look forward to following the study's progress and working with RTI International to share the results."

McCormack and RTI will partner with researchers at Vanderbilt University, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill and work with more than 1,000 patients from North Carolina and Tennessee. Using new guidelines for treating opioid patients developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers will attack the problems using two different methods.

The first method involves patients and medical providers having a "shared decision-making process." Both parties will be engaged in education and goal-setting to help the patient overcome their dependency. They will make "evidence-based decisions together that align with the patients' preferences and values," a news release stated.

The second method involves a "goal-oriented counseling technique" meant to encourage the patient's motivation to change. McCormack said types of counseling involved will be mindfulness, meditation and psycho-therapy. There will also be use of cognitive behavioral therapy in group sessions to foster more positive thinking to manage pain.

The end point, McCormack said, is "addressing the opioid epidemic" by forming an evidence base on which appropriate treatment can be developed.

"There's a lot of misunderstanding and lack of information about opioids," she said. "Some people may think that if they take opioids exactly as prescribed that they would never become addicted, and that's not the case. You need to increase their awareness about the potential benefits and awareness."

The study will begin early next year.

"We're all excited to get started," McCormack said. "There's a fair amount of prep work to get going. We've been working on this and planning it for a while, so we're really eager to get started."

Reach Staff Writer Zachary Horner at 919-718-1217 and on Twitter at @Zachary_Horner.

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(c)2017 The Sanford Herald (Sanford, N.C.)

Visit The Sanford Herald (Sanford, N.C.) at www.sanfordherald.com

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