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Emergency Medicine Receives Grant to Research New Pain Treatment

Friday, November 13, 2020
By Erin Hall, Emergency Medicine

Photo above: Graphic of the NIH Heal Initiative

As part of the National Institutes of Health's Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative (NIH HEAL Initiative), Duke Emergency Medicine received a U24 grant to conduct clinical research to find new non-addictive treatments for pain. Overall, the HEAL initiative uses multiple approaches to address the national opiate use disorder crisis, including seeking improved treatments for chronic pain, curbing the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieving long-term recovery for opioid addiction.

Dr. Alexander Limkakeng Jr.,

Professor of Emergency


Duke Emergency Medicine, in conjunction with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, was awarded the grant to establish a clinical center to conduct phase 2 trials of non-addictive pain interventions. The clinical center, called the Duke Pain Early-Phase Clinical Research Center, will be led by Alexander T. Limkakeng Jr., MD, vice chief of research for the Duke Division of Emergency Medicine, and Francis Keefe, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The grant provides almost $1 million in funding over 5 years. 

The team's research summary is as follows:

“Managing persistent pain has long been a difficult challenge, one that is heightened by the recent opioid crisis. Although many potential solutions may exist, demonstrating their efficacy in a multi-center trial is a considerable obstacle. There is broad consensus that a nationwide clinical research network is necessary to promote innovation.”

The grant helps establish a hub-spoke complex of academic medical centers with considerable experience in pain management clinical trials that will leverage existing resources to make clinical trial execution efficient and rapid. Together, spokes will provide maximum flexibility, with the ability to plan and conduct studies in a broad array of pain conditions.

The national consortium has solicited trial ideas and is in the process of starting up two trials in late summer of 2020.


Additional stories:

Duke Teams Earn NIH Funding as Part of National Effort to Combat Opioid Crisis

Early Phase Pain Investigation Clinical Network (EPPIC-Net)

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