Publications by authors named "Sairam Atluri"

59 Publications

COVID-19 Pandemic Reduced Utilization Of Interventional Techniques 18.7% In Managing Chronic Pain In The Medicare Population In 2020: Analysis Of Utilization Data From 2000 To 2020.

Pain Physician 2022 05;25(3):223-238

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: Multiple publications have shown the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on US healthcare and increasing costs over the recent years in managing low back and neck pain as well as other musculoskeletal disorders. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many modalities of treatments, including those related to chronic pain management, including both interventional techniques and opioids. While there have not been assessments of utilization of interventional techniques specific to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, previous analysis published with data from 2000 to 2018 demonstrated a decline in utilization of interventional techniques from 2009 to 2018 of 6.7%, with an annual decline of 0.8% per 100,000 fee-for-service (FFS) in the Medicare population. During that same time, the Medicare population has grown by 3% annually.

Objectives: The objectives of this analysis include an evaluation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an updated assessment of the utilization of interventional techniques in managing chronic pain in the Medicare population from 2010 to 2019, 2010 to 2020, and 2019 to 2020 in the FFS Medicare population of the United States.

Study Design: Utilization patterns and variables of interventional techniques with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in managing chronic pain were assessed from 2000 to 2020 in the FFS Medicare population of the United States.

Methods: The data for the analysis was obtained from the master database from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) physician/supplier procedure summary from 2000 to 2020.

Results: The results of the present investigation revealed an 18.7% decrease in utilization of all interventional techniques per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries from 2019 to 2020, with a 19% decrease for epidural and adhesiolysis procedures, a 17.5% decrease for facet joint interventions and sacroiliac joint blocks, and a 25.4% decrease for disc procedures and other types of nerve blocks. The results differed from 2000 to 2010 with an annualized increase of 10.2% per 100,000 Medicare population compared to an annualized decrease of 0.4% from 2010 to 2019, and a 2.5% decrease from 2010 to 2020 for all interventional techniques. For epidural and adhesiolysis procedures decreases were more significant and annualized at 3.1% from 2010 to 2019, increasing the decline to 4.8% from 2010 to 2020. For facet joint interventions and sacroiliac joint blocks, the reversal of growth patterns was observed but maintained at an annualized rate increase of 2.1% from 2010 to 2019, which changed to a decrease of 0.01% from 2010 to 2020. Disc procedures and other types of nerve blocks showed similar patterns as epidurals with an 0.8% annualized reduction from 2010 to 2019, which was further reduced to 3.6% from 2010 to 2020 due to COVID-19.

Limitations: Data for the COVID-19 pandemic impact were available only for 2019 and 2020 and only the FFS Medicare population was utilized; utilization patterns in Medicare Advantage Plans, which constitutes almost 40% of the Medicare enrollment in 2020 were not available. Moreover, this analysis shares the limitations present in all retrospective reviews of claims based datasets.

Conclusion: The decline driven by the COVID-19 pandemic was 18.7% from 2019 to 2020. Overall decline in utilization in interventional techniques from 2010 to 2020 was 22.0% per 100,000 Medicare population, with an annual diminution of 2.5%, despite an increase in the population rate of 3.3% annualized (38.9% overall) and Medicare enrollees of 33.4% and 2.9% annually.
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May 2022

Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Autologous Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells in the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain Due to Severe Lumbar Spinal Degeneration: A 12-Month, Open-Label, Prospective Controlled Trial.

Pain Physician 2022 03;25(2):193-207

Pain Management Centers of America, Paducah, KY and Evansville, IN; LSU Health Science Center, New Orleans, LA.

Background: Regenerative medicine interventions are applied to assist in the repair, and to potentially replace or restore damaged tissue through the use of autologous/allogenic biologics and it continues to expand. The anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and regenerative properties of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs), and investigation into their therapeutic efficacy and safety in patients with severe chronic low back pain, have not been demonstrated in controlled studies. Multiple pain generators have been hypothesized to be responsible in severe spinal degeneration and it is difficult to identify a single pain generator; consequently, resulting in inadequate therapeutic results.

Objectives: The study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of autologous bone marrow MSCs in the treatment of chronic low back pain due to severe lumbar spinal degeneration with involvement of multiple structures.

Study Design: Prospective, open-label, nonrandomized, parallel-controlled, 2-arm exploratory study.

Setting: A private, specialized, interventional pain management and regenerative medicine clinic.

Methods: The treatment group patients received a one-time bone marrow concentrate injection into spinal structures (i.e., discs, facets, spinal nerves, and sacroiliac joints), along with conventional treatment, whereas, the control group received conventional treatment with nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs, over-the-counter drugs, structured exercise programs, physical therapy, spinal injections and opioids, etc., as indicated.

Outcomes Assessment: Outcomes were assessed utilizing multiple instruments, including the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Numeric Rating Scale (NRS-11), EuroQOL 5-Dimensional Questionnaire (EQ-5D-3L), Global Mental Health (GMH), and Global Physical Health (GPH). Multiple outcomes were assessed with primary outcomes being minimal clinically important differences (MCID) in ODI scores between the groups and/or a 2-point reduction in pain scores. In the study group, total nucleated cells, colony forming units-fibroblast, CD34-positive  cell numbers and platelets were also recorded, along with post-procedure magnetic resonance imaging changes. Outcomes were assessed at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months.

Results: Significant improvement was achieved in functional status measured by ODI, pain relief measured by NRS-11, and other parameters measured by EQ-5D-3L, GMH, and GPH, in the study group relative to the control group at all time periods. The results showed significant improvements at 12-month follow-up with 67% of the patients in the study group achieving MCID utilizing ODI when compared to 8% in the control group. Greater than 2-point pain reduction was seen in 74% of the patients at 3 months, 66% of the patients at 6 months, and 56% of the patients at 12 months. Both MCID and pain relief of 2 points were significantly different compared to the control group. Opioid use decreased in the investigational group, whereas, there was a slight increase in the control group. Age, gender, opioid use, and body mass index did not affect the outcomes in the stem cell group.

Limitations: Single center, nonrandomized study.

Conclusions: The first available controlled study utilizing BM-MSCs in severe degenerative spinal disease with interventions into multiple structures simultaneously, including disc, facet joints, nerve roots, and sacroiliac joint based on symptomatology, showed promising results.
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March 2022

Fourth Wave of Opioid (Illicit Drug) Overdose Deaths and Diminishing Access to Prescription Opioids and Interventional Techniques: Cause and Effect.

Pain Physician 2022 03;25(2):97-124

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, data has shown that age-adjusted overdose death rates involving synthetic opioids, psychostimulants, cocaine, and heroin have been increasing, including prescription opioid deaths, which were declining, but, recently, reversing the trends. Contrary to widely held perceptions, the problem of misuse, abuse, and diversion of prescription opioids has been the least of all the factors in recent years. Consequently, it is important to properly distinguish between the role of illicit and prescription opioids in the current opioid crisis. Multiple efforts have been based on consensus on administrative policies for certain harm reduction strategies for individuals actively using illicit drugs and reducing opioid prescriptions leading to curbing of medically needed opioids, which have been ineffective. While there is no denial that prescription opioids can be misused, abused, and diverted, the policies have oversimplified the issue by curbing prescription opioids and the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of severely limiting prescription opioids, without acknowledgement that opioids have legitimate uses for persons suffering from chronic pain. Similar to the opioid crisis, interventional pain management procedures have been affected by various policies being applied to reduce overuse, abuse, and finally utilization. Medical policies have been becoming more restrictive with reduction of access to certain procedures, with the pendulum swinging too far in the direction of limiting interventional techniques. Recent utilization assessments have shown a consistent decline for most interventional techniques, with a 18.7% decrease from 2019 to 2020. The causes for these dynamic changes are multifactorial likely including the misapplication of the 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, the relative ease of access to illicit synthetic opioids and more recently issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, recent publications have shown association of dose tapering with overdose or mental health crisis among patients prescribed long-term opioids. These findings are leading to the hypothesis that federal guidelines may inadvertently be contributing to an increase in overall opioid deaths and diminished access to interventional techniques. Together, these have resulted in a fourth wave of the opioid epidemic.

Methods: A narrative review.

Results: The fourth wave results from a confluence of multiple factors, including misapplication of CDC guidelines, the increased availability of illicit drugs, the COVID-19 pandemic, and policies reducing access to interventional procedures. The CDC guidelines and subsequent regulatory atmosphere have led to aggressive tapering up to and including, at times, the overall reduction or stoppage of opioid prescriptions. Forced tapering has been linked to an increase of 69% for overdoses and 130% for mental health crisis. The data thus suggests that the diminution in access to opioid prescriptions may be occurring simultaneously with an increase in illicit narcotic use.Combined with CDC guidelines, the curbing of opioid prescriptions to medically needed individuals, among non-opioid treatments, interventional techniques have been affected with declining utilization rates and medical policies reducing access to such modalities.

Conclusion: The opioid overdose waves over the past three decades have resulted from different etiologies. Wave one was associated with prescription opioid overdose deaths and wave two with the rise in heroin and overdose deaths from 1999 to 2013. Wave three was associated with a rise in synthetic opioid overdose deaths. Sadly, wave four continues to escalate with increasing number of deaths as a confluence of factors including the CDC guidelines, the COVID pandemic, increased availability of illicit synthetic opioids and the reduction of access to interventional techniques, which leads patients to seek remedies on their own.
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March 2022

Low-Dose Naltrexone Use for Patients with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome: A Systematic Literature Review.

Pain Physician 2021 07;24(4):E393-E406

Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Fairborn, OH.

Background: Complex regional pain syndrome is a rare, neuropathic disorder that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States annually. Current treatments often focus on pain management and fall short of relieving symptoms of pain and dystonia in patients.

Objective: The goal of this systematic qualitative review is to evaluate the evidence for the use of low-dose naltrexone in the treatment of chronic pain syndromes.

Study Design: This is a systematic review.

Methods: PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science were searched for articles containing the keywords "low-dose naltrexone" AND ("pain" OR "chronic pain" OR "fibromyalgia" OR "complex regional pain syndrome" OR "neuropathic pain" OR "nociceptive pain") between 1950 and July 17, 2020. A total of 30 publications were systematically reviewed. Exclusion criteria were articles that were unavailable in English, focused on acute pain only, and evaluated only animal models. Case studies were included for the purposes of our qualitative review.

Results: Out of 29 articles, we reviewed 11 prospective studies, 10 case studies, 3 systematic reviews, 2 retrospective studies, 2 simulation models, and one combination study. Articles focused on chronic pain syndromes as well as painful rheumatologic disorders and neurological disorders. We found that low-dose naltrexone treatment was positively associated with symptom relief in patients experiencing chronic pain, dystonia, and sleep disturbances.

Limitations: Due to the limited number of available articles focusing on the treatment of complex regional pain syndrome with low-dose naltrexone, the majority of studies analyzed focused on other chronic pain syndromes.

Conclusions: There is a need for additional prospective and interventional studies addressing the use of low-dose naltrexone in the treatment of complex regional pain syndrome symptoms.
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July 2021

COVID-19 and the Opioid Epidemic: Two Public Health Emergencies That Intersect With Chronic Pain.

Pain Ther 2021 Jun 14;10(1):269-286. Epub 2021 Mar 14.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world and catapulted the United States into one of the deepest recessions in history. While this pandemic rages, the opioid crisis worsens. During this period, the pandemic has resulted in the decimation of most conventional medical services, including those of chronic pain management, with the exception of virtual care and telehealth. Many chronic pain patients have been impacted in numerous ways, with increases in cardiovascular disease, mental health problems, cognitive dysfunction, and early death. The epidemic has also resulted in severe economic and physiological consequences for providers. Drug deaths in America, which fell for the first time in 25 years in 2018, rose to record numbers in 2019 and are continuing to climb, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. The opioid epidemic was already resurfacing with a 5% increase in overall deaths from 2018; however, the preliminary data show that prescription opioid deaths continued to decline, while at the same time deaths due to fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine climbed, with some reductions in heroin deaths. The health tracker data also showed that along with an almost 88% decline in elective surgeries, pain-related prescriptions declined 15.1%. Despite increases in telehealth, outpatient services declined and only began returning towards normal at an extremely slow pace, accompanied by reduced productivity and increased practice costs. This review, therefore, emphasizes the devastating consequences of concurrent epidemics on chronic pain management and the need to develop best practice efforts to preserve access to treatment for chronic pain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40122-021-00243-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7955940PMC
June 2021

Epidural Interventions in the Management of Chronic Spinal Pain: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Comprehensive Evidence-Based Guidelines.

Pain Physician 2021 01;24(S1):S27-S208

, Advanced Pain Institute, Covington, LA.

Background: Chronic spinal pain is the most prevalent chronic disease with employment of multiple modes of interventional techniques including epidural interventions. Multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs), observational studies, systematic reviews, and guidelines have been published. The recent review of the utilization patterns and expenditures show that there has been a decline in utilization of epidural injections with decrease in inflation adjusted costs from 2009 to 2018. The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) published guidelines for interventional techniques in 2013, and guidelines for facet joint interventions in 2020. Consequently, these guidelines have been prepared to update previously existing guidelines.

Objective: To provide evidence-based guidance in performing therapeutic epidural procedures, including caudal, interlaminar in lumbar, cervical, and thoracic spinal regions, transforaminal in lumbar spine, and percutaneous adhesiolysis in the lumbar spine.

Methods: The methodology utilized included the development of objective and key questions with utilization of trustworthy standards. The literature pertaining to all aspects of epidural interventions was viewed with best evidence synthesis of available literature and  recommendations were provided.

Results: In preparation of the guidelines, extensive literature review was performed. In addition to review of multiple manuscripts in reference to utilization, expenditures, anatomical and pathophysiological considerations, pharmacological and harmful effects of drugs and procedures, for evidence synthesis we have included 47 systematic reviews and 43 RCTs covering all epidural interventions to meet the objectives.The evidence recommendations are as follows: Disc herniation: Based on relevant, high-quality fluoroscopically guided epidural injections, with or without steroids, and results of previous systematic reviews, the evidence is Level I for caudal epidural injections, lumbar interlaminar epidural injections, lumbar transforaminal epidural injections, and cervical interlaminar epidural injections with strong recommendation for long-term effectiveness.The evidence for percutaneous adhesiolysis in managing disc herniation based on one high-quality, placebo-controlled RCT is Level II with moderate to strong recommendation for long-term improvement in patients nonresponsive to conservative management and fluoroscopically guided epidural injections. For thoracic disc herniation, based on one relevant, high-quality RCT of thoracic epidural with fluoroscopic guidance, with or without steroids, the evidence is Level II with moderate to strong recommendation for long-term effectiveness.Spinal stenosis: The evidence based on one high-quality RCT in each category the evidence is Level III to II for fluoroscopically guided caudal epidural injections with moderate to strong recommendation and Level II for fluoroscopically guided lumbar and cervical interlaminar epidural injections with moderate to strong recommendation for long-term effectiveness.The evidence for lumbar transforaminal epidural injections is Level IV to III with moderate recommendation with fluoroscopically guided lumbar transforaminal epidural injections for long-term improvement. The evidence for percutaneous adhesiolysis in lumbar stenosis based on relevant, moderate to high quality RCTs, observational studies, and systematic reviews is Level II with moderate to strong recommendation for long-term improvement after failure of conservative management and fluoroscopically guided epidural injections. Axial discogenic pain: The evidence for axial discogenic pain without facet joint pain or sacroiliac joint pain in the lumbar and cervical spine with fluoroscopically guided caudal, lumbar and cervical interlaminar epidural injections, based on one relevant high quality RCT in each category is Level II with moderate to strong recommendation for long-term improvement, with or without steroids. Post-surgery syndrome: The evidence for lumbar and cervical post-surgery syndrome based on one relevant, high-quality RCT with fluoroscopic guidance for caudal and cervical interlaminar epidural injections, with or without steroids, is Level II with moderate to strong recommendation for long-term improvement. For percutaneous adhesiolysis, based on multiple moderate to high-quality RCTs and systematic reviews, the evidence is Level I with strong recommendation for long-term improvement after failure of conservative management and fluoroscopically guided epidural injections.

Limitations: The limitations of these guidelines include a continued paucity of high-quality studies for some techniques and various conditions including spinal stenosis, post-surgery syndrome, and discogenic pain.

Conclusions: These epidural intervention guidelines including percutaneous adhesiolysis were prepared with a comprehensive review of the literature with methodologic quality assessment and determination of level of evidence with strength of recommendations.
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January 2021

Methodology for Evidence Synthesis and Development of Comprehensive Evidence-Based Guidelines for Interventional Techniques in Chronic Spinal Pain.

Pain Physician 2021 01;24(S1):S1-S26

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: The re-engineered definition of clinical guidelines in 2011 from the IOM (Institute of Medicine) states, "clinical practice guidelines are statements that include recommendations intended to optimize patient care that is informed by a systematic review of evidence and an assessment of the benefit and harms of alternative care options." The revised definition distinguishes between the term "clinical practice guideline" and other forms of clinical guidance derived from widely disparate development processes, such as consensus statements, expert advice, and appropriate use criteria.

Objective: To assess the literature and develop methodology for evidence synthesis and development of comprehensive evidence-based guidelines for interventional techniques in chronic spinal pain.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature including methodology of guideline development encompassing GRADE approach for guidance on evidence synthesis with recommendations.

Results: Some of the many factors described in 2011 continue as of 2020 and impede the development of clinical practice guidelines. These impediments include biases due to a variety of conflicts and confluence of interest, inappropriate and poor methodological quality, poor writing and ambiguous presentation, projecting a view that these are not applicable to individual patients or too restrictive with the elimination of clinician autonomy, and overzealous and inappropriate recommendations, either positive, negative, or non-committal. Thus, ideally, a knowledgeable, multidisciplinary panel of experts with true lack of bias and confluence of interest must develop guidelines based on a systematic review of the existing evidence. This manuscript describes evidence synthesis from observational studies, various types of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and, finally, methodological and reporting quality of systematic reviews. The manuscript also describes various methods utilized in the assessment of the quality of observational studies, diagnostic accuracy studies, RCTs, and systematic reviews.

Limitations: Paucity of publications with appropriate evidence synthesis methodology in reference to interventional techniques.

Conclusion: This review described comprehensive evidence synthesis derived from systematic reviews, including methodologic quality and bias measurement. The manuscript described various methods utilized in the assessment of the quality of the systematic reviews, RCTs, diagnostic accuracy studies, and observational studies.
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January 2021

Safety and Effectiveness of Intravascular Mesenchymal Stem Cells to Treat Organ Failure and Possible Application in COVID-19 Complications.

Pain Physician 2020 08;23(4S):S391-S420

Pain Management Centers of America, Paducah, KY and Evansville, IN; LSU Health Science Center, New Orleans, LA.

Background: Although only a small percentage of patients with COVID-19 deteriorate to a critical condition, because of the associated high mortality rate and the sheer number of cases, it imposes a tremendous burden on the society and unprecedented strains the health care resources. Albeit lung is the primary organ involved resulting in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), many patients additionally present with secondary multiorgan failure. Unfortunately, there is no definitive or curative treatment for this condition, and the management has been predominantly confined to supportive care, which necessitates an urgent need for novel therapies. Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy has a vast array of preclinical data and early, preliminary clinical data that suggests its potential to regenerate and restore the function of damaged tissues and organs. To date, there has been no review of all the clinical trials that have assessed the safety and efficacy of MSC therapy in organ failure commonly seen in seriously complicated COVID-19 patients.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of MSC therapy in managing multiorgan failure, utilizing currently available literature.

Study Design: A review of human randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies assessing the role of MSC therapy in managing multiorgan failure.

Methods: PubMed, Cochrane Library, US National Guideline Clearinghouse, Google Scholar, and prior systematic reviews and reference lists were utilized in the literature search from 1990 through May 2020. Studies that included embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, differentiated MSCs into specific lineage cells, and hematopoietic stem cells were excluded. Trials with intraorgan infiltration of MSC were also excluded.

Outcome Measures: The primary outcome evaluated the improvement in clinical assessment scores and indices of organ function. The secondary outcome assessed the safety of MSC therapy in the clinical trials.

Results: Based on search criteria, 12 studies were found for lung, 52 for heart, 23 for liver, 16 for stroke, and 9 for kidney. Among the 6 studies that specifically assessed the effectiveness of MSC therapy in ARDS, 4 showed positive outcomes. Forty-one of the 52 trials that examined ischemic and nonischemic heart failure reported beneficial effects. Twenty of 23 trials for liver failure from different etiologies revealed favorable outcomes. Nine out of the 15 studies evaluating stroke had satisfactory effects. However, only 3 out of the 9 studies for kidney failure showed positive results. Nonexpanded bone marrow mononuclear cells were used in most of the negative studies. The incidence of disease worsening or major complications was extremely rare from MSC therapy.

Limitations: Among the studies evaluated, although there were many RCTs, there were also numerous case series. Additionally, most recruited a small number of patients.

Conclusions: MSC therapy seems to be promising to treat multiorgan failure from COVID-19. More studies are urgently needed to assess both safety and efficacy.
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August 2020

Lack of Superiority of Epidural Injections with Lidocaine with Steroids Compared to Without Steroids in Spinal Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Pain Physician 2020 08;23(4S):S239-S270

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: Multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews have been conducted to summarize the evidence for administration of local anesthetic (lidocaine) alone or with steroids, with discordant opinions, more in favor of equal effect with local anesthetic alone or with steroids.

Objective: To evaluate the comparative effectiveness of lidocaine alone and lidocaine with steroids in managing spinal pain to assess superiority or equivalency.

Study Design: A systematic review of RCTs assessing the effectiveness of lidocaine alone compared with addition of steroids to lidocaine in managing spinal pain secondary to multiple causes (disc herniation, radiculitis, discogenic pain, spinal stenosis, and post-surgery syndrome).

Methods: This systematic review was performed utilizing Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) for literature search, Cochrane review criteria, and Interventional Pain Management Techniques-Quality Appraisal of Reliability and Risk of Bias Assessment (IPM-QRB) to assess the methodologic quality assessment and qualitative analysis utilizing best evidence synthesis principles, and quantitative analysis utilizing conventional and single-arm meta-analysis. PubMed, Cochrane Library, US National Guideline Clearinghouse, Google Scholar, and prior systematic reviews and reference lists were utilized in the literature search from 1966 through December 2019. The evidence was summarized utilizing principles of best evidence synthesis on a scale of 1 to 5.

Outcome Measures: A hard endpoint for the primary outcome was defined as the proportion of patients with 50% pain relief and improvement in function. Secondary outcome measures, or soft endpoints, were pain relief and/or improvement in function. Effectiveness was determined as short-term if it was less than 6 months. Improvement that lasted longer than 6 months, was defined as long-term.

Results: Based on search criteria, 15 manuscripts were identified and considered for inclusion for qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis with conventional meta-analysis, and single-arm meta-analysis. The results showed Level II, moderate evidence, for short-term and long-term improvement in pain and function with the application of epidural injections with local anesthetic with or without steroid in managing spinal pain of multiple origins.

Limitations: Despite 15 RCTs, evidence may still be considered as less than optimal and further studies are recommended.

Conclusion: Overall, the present meta-analysis shows moderate (Level II) evidence for epidural injections with lidocaine with or without steroids in managing spinal pain secondary to disc herniation, spinal stenosis, discogenic pain, and post-surgery syndrome based on relevant, high-quality RCTs. Results were similar for lidocaine, with or without steroids.
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August 2020

Triaging Interventional Pain Procedures During COVID-19 or Related Elective Surgery Restrictions: Evidence-Informed Guidance from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP).

Pain Physician 2020 08;23(4S):S183-204

Sutter Gould Medical Foundation, Stockton, CA.

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the pain and suffering of chronic pain patients due to stoppage of "elective" interventional pain management and office visits across the United States. The reopening of America and restarting of interventional techniques and elective surgical procedures has started. Unfortunately, with resurgence in some states, restrictions are once again being imposed. In addition, even during the Phase II and III of reopening, chronic pain patients and interventional pain physicians have faced difficulties because of the priority selection of elective surgical procedures.Chronic pain patients require high intensity care, specifically during a pandemic such as COVID-19. Consequently, it has become necessary to provide guidance for triaging interventional pain procedures, or related elective surgery restrictions during a pandemic.

Objectives: The aim of these guidelines is to provide education and guidance for physicians, healthcare administrators, the public and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is to restore the opportunity to receive appropriate care for our patients who may benefit from interventional techniques.

Methods: The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) has created the COVID-19 Task Force in order to provide guidance for triaging interventional pain procedures or related elective surgery restrictions to provide appropriate access to interventional pain management (IPM) procedures in par with other elective surgical procedures. In developing the guidance, trustworthy standards and appropriate disclosures of conflicts of interest were applied with a section of a panel of experts from various regions, specialties, types of practices (private practice, community hospital and academic institutes) and groups. The literature pertaining to all aspects of COVID-19, specifically related to epidemiology, risk factors, complications, morbidity and mortality, and literature related to risk mitigation and stratification was reviewed. The evidence -- informed with the incorporation of the best available research and practice knowledge was utilized, instead of a simplified evidence-based approach. Consequently, these guidelines are considered evidence-informed with the incorporation of the best available research and practice knowledge.

Results: The Task Force defined the medical urgency of a case and developed an IPM acuity scale for elective IPM procedures with 3 tiers. These included urgent, emergency, and elective procedures. Examples of urgent and emergency procedures included new onset or exacerbation of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), acute trauma or acute exacerbation of degenerative or neurological disease resulting in impaired mobility and inability to perform activities of daily living. Examples include painful rib fractures affecting oxygenation and post-dural puncture headaches limiting the ability to sit upright, stand and walk. In addition, emergency procedures include procedures to treat any severe or debilitating disease that prevents the patient from carrying out activities of daily living. Elective procedures were considered as any condition that is stable and can be safely managed with alternatives.

Limitations: COVID-19 continues to be an ongoing pandemic. When these recommendations were developed, different stages of reopening based on geographical regulations were in process. The pandemic continues to be dynamic creating every changing evidence-based guidance. Consequently, we provided evidence-informed guidance.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges in IPM creating needless suffering for pain patients. Many IPM procedures cannot be indefinitely postponed without adverse consequences. Chronic pain exacerbations are associated with marked functional declines and risks with alternative treatment modalities. They must be treated with the concern that they deserve. Clinicians must assess patients, local healthcare resources, and weigh the risks and benefits of a procedure against the risks of suffering from disabling pain and exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
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August 2020

Comprehensive Evidence-Based Guidelines for Facet Joint Interventions in the Management of Chronic Spinal Pain: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Guidelines Facet Joint Interventions 2020 Guidelines.

Pain Physician 2020 05;23(3S):S1-S127

Axis Spine Center, Coeur d'Alene, ID.

Background: Chronic axial spinal pain is one of the major causes of significant disability and health care costs, with facet joints as one of the proven causes of pain.

Objective: To provide evidence-based guidance in performing diagnostic and therapeutic facet joint interventions.

Methods: The methodology utilized included the development of objectives and key questions with utilization of trustworthy standards. The literature pertaining to all aspects of facet joint interventions, was reviewed, with a best evidence synthesis of available literature and utilizing grading for recommendations.Summary of Evidence and Recommendations:Non-interventional diagnosis: • The level of evidence is II in selecting patients for facet joint nerve blocks at least 3 months after onset and failure of conservative management, with strong strength of recommendation for physical examination and clinical assessment. • The level of evidence is IV for accurate diagnosis of facet joint pain with physical examination based on symptoms and signs, with weak strength of recommendation. Imaging: • The level of evidence is I with strong strength of recommendation, for mandatory fluoroscopic or computed tomography (CT) guidance for all facet joint interventions. • The level of evidence is III with weak strength of recommendation for single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) . • The level of evidence is V with weak strength of recommendation for scintography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) .Interventional Diagnosis:Lumbar Spine: • The level of evidence is I to II with moderate to strong strength of recommendation for lumbar diagnostic facet joint nerve blocks. • Ten relevant diagnostic accuracy studies with 4 of 10 studies utilizing controlled comparative local anesthetics with concordant pain relief criterion standard of ≥80% were included. • The prevalence rates ranged from 27% to 40% with false-positive rates of 27% to 47%, with ≥80% pain relief.Cervical Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation. • Ten relevant diagnostic accuracy studies, 9 of the 10 studies with either controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks or placebo controls with concordant pain relief with a criterion standard of ≥80% were included. • The prevalence and false-positive rates ranged from 29% to 60% and of 27% to 63%, with high variability. Thoracic Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation. • Three relevant diagnostic accuracy studies, with controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks, with concordant pain relief, with a criterion standard of ≥80% were included. • The prevalence varied from 34% to 48%, whereas false-positive rates varied from 42% to 58%.Therapeutic Facet Joint Interventions: Lumbar Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for lumbar radiofrequency ablation with inclusion of 11 relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with 2 negative studies and 4 studies with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for therapeutic lumbar facet joint nerve blocks with inclusion of 3 relevant randomized controlled trials, with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is IV with weak strength of recommendation for lumbar facet joint intraarticular injections with inclusion of 9 relevant randomized controlled trials, with majority of them showing lack of effectiveness without the use of local anesthetic. Cervical Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for cervical radiofrequency ablation with inclusion of one randomized controlled trial with positive results and 2 observational studies with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for therapeutic cervical facet joint nerve blocks with inclusion of one relevant randomized controlled trial and 3 observational studies, with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is V with weak strength of recommendation for cervical intraarticular facet joint injections with inclusion of 3 relevant randomized controlled trials, with 2 observational studies, the majority showing lack of effectiveness, whereas one study with 6-month follow-up, showed lack of long-term improvement. Thoracic Spine: • The level of evidence is III with weak to moderate strength of recommendation with emerging evidence for thoracic radiofrequency ablation with inclusion of one relevant randomized controlled trial and 3 observational studies. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for thoracic therapeutic facet joint nerve blocks with inclusion of 2 randomized controlled trials and one observational study with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is III with weak to moderate strength of recommendation for thoracic intraarticular facet joint injections with inclusion of one randomized controlled trial with 6 month follow-up, with emerging evidence. Antithrombotic Therapy: • Facet joint interventions are considered as moderate to low risk procedures; consequently, antithrombotic therapy may be continued based on overall general status. Sedation: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation to avoid opioid analgesics during the diagnosis with interventional techniques. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation that moderate sedation may be utilized for patient comfort and to control anxiety for therapeutic facet joint interventions.

Limitations: The limitations of these guidelines include a paucity of high-quality studies in the majority of aspects of diagnosis and therapy.

Conclusions: These facet joint intervention guidelines were prepared with a comprehensive review of the literature with methodologic quality assessment with determination of level of evidence and strength of recommendations.

Key Words: Chronic spinal pain, interventional techniques, diagnostic blocks, therapeutic interventions, facet joint nerve blocks, intraarticular injections, radiofrequency neurolysis.
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May 2020

Update of Utilization Patterns of Facet Joint Interventions in Managing Spinal Pain from 2000 to 2018 in the US Fee-for-Service Medicare Population.

Pain Physician 2020 03;23(2):E133-E149

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: Interventional techniques for managing spinal pain, from conservative modalities to surgical interventions, are thought to have been growing rapidly. Interventional techniques take center stage in managing chronic spinal pain. Specifically, facet joint interventions experienced explosive growth rates from 2000 to 2009, with a reversal of these growth patterns and in some settings, a trend of decline after 2009.

Objectives: The objectives of this assessment of utilization patterns include providing an update of facet joint interventions in managing chronic spinal pain in the fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare population of the United States from 2000 to 2018.

Study Design: The study was designed to assess utilization patterns and variables of facet joint interventions in managing chronic spinal pain from 2000 to 2018 in the FFS Medicare population in the United States.

Methods: Data for the analysis were obtained from the master database from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) physician/supplier procedure summary from 2000 to 2018.

Results: Facet joint interventions increased 1.9% annually and 18.8% total from 2009 to 2018 per 100,000 FFS Medicare population compared with an annual increase of 17% and overall increase of 309.9% from 2000 to 2009. Lumbosacral facet joint nerve block sessions or visits decreased at an annual rate of 0.2% from 2009 to 2018, with an increase of 15.2% from 2000 to 2009. In contrast, lumbosacral facet joint neurolysis sessions increased at an annual rate of 7.4% from 2009 to 2018, and the utilization rate also increased at an annual rate of 23.0% from 2000 to 2009. The proportion of lumbar facet joint blocks sessions to lumbosacral facet joint neurolysis sessions changed from 6.7 in 2000 to 1.9 in 2018. Cervical and thoracic facet joint injections increased at an annual rate of 0.5% compared with cervicothoracic facet neurolysis sessions of 8.7% from 2009 to 2018. Cervical facet joint injections increased to 4.9% from 2009 to 2018 compared with neurolysis procedures of 112%. The proportion of cervical facet joint injection sessions to neurolysis sessions changed from 8.9 in 2000 to 2.4 in 2018.

Limitations: This analysis is limited by inclusion of only the FFS Medicare population, without adding utilization patterns of Medicare Advantage plans, which constitutes almost 30% of the Medicare population. The utilization data for individual states also continues to be sparse and may not be accurate.

Conclusions: Utilization patterns of facet joint interventions increased 1.9% per 100,000 Medicare population from 2009 to 2018. This results from an annual decline of - 0.2% lumbar facet joint injection sessions but with an increase of facet joint radiofrequency sessions of 7.4%.

Key Words: Interventional techniques, facet joint interventions, facet joint nerve blocks, facet joint neurolysis.
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March 2020

Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMC) Therapy in Musculoskeletal Disorders: Evidence-Based Policy Position Statement of American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP).

Pain Physician 2020 03;23(2):E85-E131

Pain Management Centers of America.

Background: The use of bone marrow concentrate (BMC) for treatment of musculoskeletal disorders has become increasingly popular over the last several years, as technology has improved along with the need for better solutions for these pathologies. The use of cellular tissue raises a number of issues regarding the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulation in classifying these treatments as a drug versus just autologous tissue transplantation. In the case of BMC in musculoskeletal and spine care, this determination will likely hinge on whether BMC is homologous to the musculoskeletal system and spine.

Objectives: The aim of this review is to describe the current regulatory guidelines set in place by the FDA, specifically the terminology around "minimal manipulation" and "homologous use" within Regulation 21 CFR Part 1271, and specifically how this applies to the use of BMC in interventional musculoskeletal medicine.

Methods: The methodology utilized here is similar to the methodology utilized in preparation of multiple guidelines employing the experience of a panel of experts from various medical specialties and subspecialties from differing regions of the world. The collaborators who developed these position statements have submitted their appropriate disclosures of conflicts of interest. Trustworthy standards were employed in the creation of these position statements. The literature pertaining to BMC, its effectiveness, adverse consequences, FDA regulations, criteria for meeting the standards of minimal manipulation, and homologous use were comprehensively reviewed using a best evidence synthesis of the available and relevant literature. RESULTS/Summary of Evidence: In conjunction with evidence-based medicine principles, the following position statements were developed: Statement 1: Based on a review of the literature in discussing the preparation of BMC using accepted methodologies, there is strong evidence of minimal manipulation in its preparation, and moderate evidence for homologous utility for various musculoskeletal and spinal conditions qualifies for the same surgical exemption. Statement 2: Assessment of clinical effectiveness based on extensive literature shows emerging evidence for multiple musculoskeletal and spinal conditions. • The evidence is highest for knee osteoarthritis with level II evidence based on relevant systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials and nonrandomized studies. There is level III evidence for knee cartilage conditions. • Based on the relevant systematic reviews, randomized trials, and nonrandomized studies, the evidence for disc injections is level III. • Based on the available literature without appropriate systematic reviews or randomized controlled trials, the evidence for all other conditions is level IV or limited for BMC injections. Statement 3: Based on an extensive review of the literature, there is strong evidence for the safety of BMC when performed by trained physicians with the appropriate precautions under image guidance utilizing a sterile technique. Statement 4: Musculoskeletal disorders and spinal disorders with related disability for economic and human toll, despite advancements with a wide array of treatment modalities. Statement 5: The 21st Century Cures Act was enacted in December 2016 with provisions to accelerate the development and translation of promising new therapies into clinical evaluation and use. Statement 6: Development of cell-based therapies is rapidly proliferating in a number of disease areas, including musculoskeletal disorders and spine. With mixed results, these therapies are greatly outpacing the evidence. The reckless publicity with unsubstantiated claims of beneficial outcomes having putative potential, and has led the FDA Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue multiple warnings. Thus the US FDA is considering the appropriateness of using various therapies, including BMC, for homologous use. Statement 7: Since the 1980's and the description of mesenchymal stem cells by Caplan et al, (now called medicinal signaling cells), the use of BMC in musculoskeletal and spinal disorders has been increasing in the management of pain and promoting tissue healing. Statement 8: The Public Health Service Act (PHSA) of the FDA requires minimal manipulation under same surgical procedure exemption. Homologous use of BMC in musculoskeletal and spinal disorders is provided by preclinical and clinical evidence. Statement 9: If the FDA does not accept BMC as homologous, then it will require an Investigational New Drug (IND) classification with FDA (351) cellular drug approval for use. Statement 10: This literature review and these position statements establish compliance with the FDA's intent and corroborates its present description of BMC as homologous with same surgical exemption, and exempt from IND, for use of BMC for treatment of musculoskeletal tissues, such as cartilage, bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and spinal discs.

Conclusions: Based on the review of all available and pertinent literature, multiple position statements have been developed showing that BMC in musculoskeletal disorders meets the criteria of minimal manipulation and homologous use.

Key Words: Cell-based therapies, bone marrow concentrate, mesenchymal stem cells, medicinal signaling cells, Food and Drug Administration, human cells, tissues, and cellular tissue-based products, Public Health Service Act (PHSA), minimal manipulation, homologous use, same surgical procedure exemption.
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March 2020

Expanded Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells (UC-MSCs) as a Therapeutic Strategy in Managing Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients: The Case for Compassionate Use.

Pain Physician 2020 03;23(2):E71-E83

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

COVID-19 has affected the United States leading to a national emergency with health care and economic impact, propelling the country into a recession with disrupted lifestyles not seen in recent history. COVID-19 is a serious illness leading to multiple deaths in various countries including the United States. Several million Americans satisfy the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria for being high risk. Unfortunately, the available supply of medical beds and equipment for mechanical ventilation are much less than is projected to be needed. The World Health Organization (WHO) and multiple agencies led by the CDC in the United States have attempted to organize intensive outbreak investigation programs utilizing appropriate preventive measures, evaluation, and treatment. The clinical spectrum of COVID-19 varies from asymptomatic forms to conditions encompassing multiorgan and systemic manifestations in terms of septic shock, and multiple organ dysfunction (MOD) syndromes. The presently approved treatments are supportive but not curative for the disease. There are multiple treatments being studied. These include vaccines, medications Remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine and potentially combination therapy. Finally, expanded umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells or (UC-MSCs) may have a role and are being studied. The cure of COVID-19 is essentially dependent on the patients' own immune system. When the immune system is over activated in an attempt to kill the virus, this can lead to the production of a large number of inflammatory factors, resulting in severe cytokine storm. The cytokine storm may induce organ damage followed by the edema, dysfunction of air exchange, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), acute cardiac injury, and secondary infection, which may lead to death. Thus, at this point, the avoidance of the cytokine storm may be the key for the treatment of HCOV-19 infected patients.In China, where there was limited availability of effective modalities to manage COVID-19 several patients were treated with expanded UC-MSCs. Additionally, the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care have reported guidelines to treat coronavirus patients with stem cells in the hope of decreasing the number of patients going to the ICU, and, also relatively quickly getting them out of ICU. In this manuscript, we describe the urgent need for various solutions, pathogenesis of coronavirus and the clinical evidence for treatment of COVID-19 with stem cells. The limited but emerging evidence regarding UC MSC in managing COVID-19 suggests that it might be considered for compassionate use in critically ill patients to reduce morbidity and mortality in the United States. The administration and Coronavirus Task Force might wish to approach the potential of expanded UC-MSCs as an evolutionary therapeutic strategy in managing COVID-19 illness with a 3-pronged approach: If proven safe and effective on a specific and limited basis…1. Minimize regulatory burden by all agencies so that critically ill COVID-19 patients will have access regardless of their financial circumstance.2. Institute appropriate safeguards to avoid negative consequences from unscrupulous actors.3. With proper informed consent from patients or proxy when necessary, and subject to accumulation of data in that cohort, allow the procedure to be initiated in critically ill patients who are not responding to conventional therapies.KEY WORDS: Coronavirus, COVID-19, cytokine storm, multiorgan failure, expanded umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells.
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March 2020

Responsible, Safe, and Effective Use of Antithrombotics and Anticoagulants in Patients Undergoing Interventional Techniques: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Guidelines.

Pain Physician 2019 01;22(1S):S75-S128

MGH Center for Pain Medicine, Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Background: Interventional pain management involves diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain. This specialty utilizes minimally invasive procedures to target therapeutics to the central nervous system and the spinal column. A subset of patients encountered in interventional pain are medicated using anticoagulant or antithrombotic drugs to mitigate thrombosis risk. Since these drugs target the clotting system, bleeding risk is a consideration accompanying interventional procedures. Importantly, discontinuation of anticoagulant or antithrombotic drugs exposes underlying thrombosis risk, which can lead to significant morbidity and mortality especially in those with coronary artery or cerebrovascular disease. This review summarizes the literature and provides guidelines based on best evidence for patients receiving anti-clotting therapy during interventional pain procedures.

Study Design: Best evidence synthesis.

Objective: To provide a current and concise appraisal of the literature regarding an assessment of the bleeding risk during interventional techniques for patients taking anticoagulant and/or antithrombotic medications.

Methods: A review of the available literature published on bleeding risk during interventional pain procedures, practice patterns and perioperative management of anticoagulant and antithrombotic therapy was conducted. Data sources included relevant literature identified through searches of EMBASE and PubMed from 1966 through August 2018 and manual searches of the bibliographies of known primary and review articles.

Results: 1. There is good evidence for risk stratification by categorizing multiple interventional techniques into low-risk, moderate-risk, and high-risk. Also, their risk should be upgraded based on other risk factors.2. There is good evidence for the risk of thromboembolic events in patients who interrupt antithrombotic therapy. 3. There is good evidence supporting discontinuation of low dose aspirin for high risk and moderate risk procedures for at least 3 days, and there is moderate evidence that these may be continued for low risk or some intermediate risk procedures.4. There is good evidence that discontinuation of anticoagulant therapy with warfarin, heparin, dabigatran (Pradaxa®), argatroban (Acova®), bivalirudin (Angiomax®), lepirudin (Refludan®), desirudin (Iprivask®), hirudin, apixaban (Eliquis®), rivaroxaban (Xarelto®), edoxaban (Savaysa®, Lixiana®), Betrixaban(Bevyxxa®), fondaparinux (Arixtra®) prior to interventional techniques with individual consideration of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the drugs and individual risk factors increases safety.5. There is good evidence that diagnosis of epidural hematoma is based on severe pain at the site of the injection, rapid neurological deterioration, and MRI with surgical decompression with progressive neurological dysfunction to avoid neurological sequelae.6. There is good evidence that if thromboembolic risk is high, low molecular weight heparin bridge therapy can be instituted during cessation of the anticoagulant, and the low molecular weight heparin can be discontinued 24 hours before the pain procedure.7. There is fair evidence that the risk of thromboembolic events is higher than that of epidural hematoma formation with the interruption of antiplatelet therapy preceding interventional techniques, though both risks are significant.8. There is fair evidence that multiple variables including anatomic pathology with spinal stenosis and ankylosing spondylitis; high risk procedures and moderate risk procedures combined with anatomic risk factors; bleeding observed during the procedure, and multiple attempts during the procedures increase the risk for bleeding complications and epidural hematoma.9. There is fair evidence that discontinuation of phosphodiesterase inhibitors is optional (dipyridamole [Persantine], cilostazol [Pletal]. However, there is also fair evidence to discontinue Aggrenox [dipyridamole plus aspirin]) 3 days prior to undergoing interventional techniques of moderate and high risk. 10. There is fair evidence to make shared decision making between the patient and the treating physicians with the treating physician and to consider all the appropriate risks associated with continuation or discontinuation of antithrombotic or anticoagulant therapy.11. There is fair evidence that if thromboembolic risk is high antithrombotic therapy may be resumed 12 hours after the interventional procedure is performed.12. There is limited evidence that discontinuation of antiplatelet therapy (clopidogrel [Plavix®], ticlopidine [Ticlid®], Ticagrelor [Brilinta®] and prasugrel [Effient®]) avoids complications of significant bleeding and epidural hematomas.13. There is very limited evidence supporting the continuation or discontinuation of most NSAIDs, excluding aspirin, for 1 to 2 days and some 4 to 10 days, since these are utilized for pain management without cardiac or cerebral protective effect.

Limitations: The continued paucity of the literature with discordant recommendations.

Conclusion: Based on the survey of current literature, and published clinical guidelines, recommendations for patients presenting with ongoing antithrombotic therapy prior to interventional techniques are variable, and are based on comprehensive analysis of each patient and the risk-benefit analysis of intervention.

Key Words: Perioperative bleeding, bleeding risk, practice patterns, anticoagulant therapy, antithrombotic therapy, interventional techniques, safety precautions, pain.
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January 2019

Responsible, Safe, and Effective Use of Biologics in the Management of Low Back Pain: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Guidelines.

Pain Physician 2019 01;22(1S):S1-S74

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: Regenerative medicine is a medical subspecialty that seeks to recruit and enhance the body's own inherent healing armamentarium in the treatment of patient pathology. This therapy's intention is to assist in the repair, and to potentially replace or restore damaged tissue through the use of autologous or allogenic biologics. This field is rising like a Phoenix from the ashes of underperforming conventional therapy midst the hopes and high expectations of patients and medical personnel alike. But, because this is a relatively new area of medicine that has yet to substantiate its outcomes, care must be taken in its public presentation and promises as well as in its use.

Objective: To provide guidance for the responsible, safe, and effective use of biologic therapy in the lumbar spine. To present a template on which to build standardized therapies using biologics. To ground potential administrators of biologics in the knowledge of the current outcome statistics and to stimulate those interested in providing biologic therapy to participate in high quality research that will ultimately promote and further advance this area of medicine.

Methods: The methodology used has included the development of objectives and key questions. A panel of experts from various medical specialties and subspecialties as well as differing regions collaborated in the formation of these guidelines and submitted (if any) their appropriate disclosures of conflicts of interest. Trustworthy standards were employed in the creation of these guidelines. The literature pertaining to regenerative medicine, its effectiveness, and adverse consequences was thoroughly reviewed using a best evidence synthesis of the available literature. The grading for recommendation was provided as described by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Summary Of Evidence: Lumbar Disc Injections: Based on the available evidence regarding the use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP), including one high-quality randomized controlled trial (RCT), multiple moderate-quality observational studies, a single-arm meta-analysis and evidence from a systematic review, the qualitative evidence has been assessed as Level III (on a scale of Level I through V) using a qualitative modified approach to the grading of evidence based on best-evidence synthesis. Based on the available evidence regarding the use of medicinal signaling/ mesenchymal stem cell (MSCs) with a high-quality RCT, multiple moderate-quality observational studies, a single-arm meta-analysis, and 2 systematic reviews, the qualitative evidence has been assessed as Level III (on a scale of Level I through V) using a qualitative modified approach to the grading of evidence based on best evidence synthesis. Lumbar Epidural Injections Based on one high-quality RCT, multiple relevant moderate-quality observational studies and a single-arm meta-analysis, the qualitative evidence has been assessed as Level IV (on a scale of Level I through V) using a qualitative modified approach to the grading of evidence based on best evidence synthesis. Lumbar Facet Joint Injections Based on one high-quality RCT and 2 moderate-quality observational studies, the qualitative evidence for facet joint injections with PRP has been assessed as Level IV (on a scale of Level I through V) using a qualitative modified approach to the grading of evidence based on best evidence synthesis. Sacroiliac Joint Injection Based on one high-quality RCT, one moderate-quality observational study, and one low-quality case report, the qualitative evidence has been assessed as Level IV (on a scale of Level I through V) using a qualitative modified approach to the grading of evidence based on best evidence synthesis.

Conclusion: Based on the evidence synthesis summarized above, there is Level III evidence for intradiscal injections of PRP and MSCs, whereas the evidence is considered Level IV for lumbar facet joint, lumbar epidural, and sacroiliac joint injections of PRP, (on a scale of Level I through V) using a qualitative modified approach to the grading of evidence based on best evidence synthesis.Regenerative therapy should be provided to patients following diagnostic evidence of a need for biologic therapy, following a thorough discussion of the patient's needs and expectations, after properly educating the patient on the use and administration of biologics and in full light of the patient's medical history. Regenerative therapy may be provided independently or in conjunction with other modalities of treatment including a structured exercise program, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, and along with the appropriate conventional medical therapy as necessary. Appropriate precautions should be taken into consideration and followed prior to performing biologic therapy. Multiple guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), potential limitations in the use of biologic therapy and the appropriate requirements for compliance with the FDA have been detailed in these guidelines.

Key Words: Regenerative medicine, platelet-rich plasma, medicinal signaling cells, mesenchymal stem cells, stromal vascular fraction, bone marrow concentrate, chronic low back pain, discogenic pain, facet joint pain, Food and Drug Administration, minimal manipulation, evidence synthesis.
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January 2019

Do Regenerative Medicine Therapies Provide Long-Term Relief in Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Metaanalysis.

Pain Physician 2018 11;21(6):515-540

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: Several cell-based therapies have been proposed in recent years the management of low back pain, including the injection of medicinal signaling cells or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP). However, there is only emerging clinical evidence to support their use at this time.

Objective: To assess the effectiveness of MSCs or PRP injections in the treatment of low back and lower extremity pain.

Study Design: A systematic review and metaanalysis of the effectiveness of PRP and MSCs injections in managing low back and lower extremity pain.

Data Sources: PubMed, Cochrane Library, US National Guideline Clearinghouse, prior systematic reviews, and reference lists. The literature search was performed from 1966 through June 2018.

Study Selection: Randomized trials, observational studies, and case reports of injections of biologics into the disc, epidural space, facet joints, or sacroiliac joints.

Data Extraction: Data extraction and methodological quality assessment were performed utilizing Cochrane review methodologic quality assessment and Interventional Pain Management Techniques - Quality Appraisal of Reliability and Risk of Bias Assessment (IPM-QRB) and Interventional Pain Management Techniques - Quality Appraisal of Reliability and Risk of Bias Assessment for Nonrandomized Studies (IPM-QRBNR). The evidence was summarized utilizing principles of best evidence synthesis on a scale of 1 to 5.

Data Synthesis: Twenty-one injection studies met inclusion criteria. There were 12 lumbar disc injections, 5 epidural, 3 lumbar facet joint, and 3 sacroiliac joint studies RESULTS: Evidence synthesis based on a single-arm metaanalysis, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and observational studies, disc injections of PRP and MSCs showed Level 3 evidence (on a scale of Level I through V). Evidence for epidural injections based on single-arm metaanalysis, a single randomized controlled trial and other available studies demonstrated Level 4 (on a scale of Level I through V) evidence. Similarly, evidence for lumbar facet joint injections and sacroiliac joint injections without metaanalysis demonstrated Level 4 evidence (on a scale of Level I through V).

Limitations: Lack of high quality RCTs.

Conclusion: The findings of this systematic review and single-arm metaanalysis shows that MSCs and PRP may be effective in managing discogenic low back pain, radicular pain, facet joint pain, and sacroiliac joint pain, with variable levels of evidence in favor of these techniques.

Key Words: Chronic low back pain, regenerative therapy, medicinal signaling or mesenchymal stem cells, platelet-rich plasma, disc injection, lumbar facet joint injections, sacroiliac joint injections.
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November 2018

Reframing the Prevention Strategies of the Opioid Crisis: Focusing on Prescription Opioids, Fentanyl, and Heroin Epidemic.

Pain Physician 2018 07;21(4):309-326

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

The opioid epidemic has been called the "most consequential preventable public health problem in the United States." Though there is wide recognition of the role of prescription opioids in the epidemic, evidence has shown that heroin and synthetic opioids contribute to the majority of opioid overdose deaths. It is essential to reframe the preventive strategies in place against the opioid crisis with attention to factors surrounding the illicit use of fentanyl and heroin. Data on opioid overdose deaths shows 42,000 deaths in 2016. Of these, synthetic opioids other than methadone were responsible for over 20,000, heroin for over 15,000, and natural and semi-synthetic opioids other than methadone responsible for over 14,000. Fentanyl deaths increased 520% from 2009 to 2016 (increased by 87.7% annually between 2013 and 2016), and heroin deaths increased 533% from 2000 to 2016. Prescription opioid deaths increased by 18% overall between 2009 and 2016. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) mandated reductions in opioid production by 25% in 2017 and 20% in 2018. The number of prescriptions for opioids declined significantly from 252 million in 2013 to 196 million in 2017 (9% annual decline over this period), falling below the number of prescriptions in 2006. In addition, data from 2017 shows significant reductions in the milligram equivalence of morphine by 12.2% and in the number of patients receiving high dose opioids by 16.1%. This manuscript describes the escalation of opioid use in the United States, discussing the roles played by drug manufacturers and distributors, liberalization by the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), licensure boards and legislatures, poor science, and misuse of evidence-based medicine. Moreover, we describe how the influence of pharma, improper advocacy by physician groups, and the promotion of literature considered peer-reviewed led to the explosive use of illicit drugs arising from the issues surrounding prescription opioids.This manuscript describes a 3-tier approach presented to Congress. Tier 1 includes an aggressive education campaign geared toward the public, physicians, and patients. Tier 2 includes facilitation of easier access to non-opioid techniques and the establishment of a National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (NASPER). Finally, Tier 3 focuses on making buprenorphine more available for chronic pain management as well as for medication-assisted treatment.

Key Words: Opioid epidemic, fentanyl and heroin epidemic, prescription opioids, National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (NASPER), Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs).
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July 2018

Responsible, Safe, and Effective Prescription of Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Guidelines.

Pain Physician 2017 02;20(2S):S3-S92

Georgia Pain Care, Atlanta, GA.

Background: Opioid use, abuse, and adverse consequences, including death, have escalated at an alarming rate since the 1990s. In an attempt to control opioid abuse, numerous regulations and guidelines for responsible opioid prescribing have been developed by various organizations. However, the US opioid epidemic is continuing and drug dose deaths tripled during 1999 to 2015. Recent data show a continuing increase in deaths due to natural and semisynthetic opioids, a decline in methadone deaths, and an explosive increase in the rates of deaths involving other opioids, specifically heroin and illicit synthetic fentanyl. Contrary to scientific evidence of efficacy and negative recommendations, a significant proportion of physicians and patients (92%) believe that opioids reduce pain and a smaller proportion (57%) report better quality of life. In preparation of the current guidelines, we have focused on the means to reduce the abuse and diversion of opioids without jeopardizing access for those patients suffering from non-cancer pain who have an appropriate medical indication for opioid use.

Objectives: To provide guidance for the prescription of opioids for the management of chronic non-cancer pain, to develop a consistent philosophy among the many diverse groups with an interest in opioid use as to how appropriately prescribe opioids, to improve the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain and to reduce the likelihood of drug abuse and diversion. These guidelines are intended to provide a systematic and standardized approach to this complex and difficult arena of practice, while recognizing that every clinical situation is unique.

Methods: The methodology utilized included the development of objectives and key questions. The methodology also utilized trustworthy standards, appropriate disclosures of conflicts of interest, as well as a panel of experts from various specialties and groups. The literature pertaining to opioid use, abuse, effectiveness, and adverse consequences was reviewed, with a best evidence synthesis of the available literature, and utilized grading for recommendation as described by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).Summary of Recommendations:i. Initial Steps of Opioid Therapy 1. Comprehensive assessment and documentation. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong) 2. Screening for opioid abuse to identify opioid abusers. (Evidence: Level II-III; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 3. Utilization of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). (Evidence: Level I-II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate to strong) 4. Utilization of urine drug testing (UDT). (Evidence: Level II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 5. Establish appropriate physical diagnosis and psychological diagnosis if available. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong) 6. Consider appropriate imaging, physical diagnosis, and psychological status to collaborate with subjective complaints. (Evidence: Level III; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 7. Establish medical necessity based on average moderate to severe (≥ 4 on a scale of 0 - 10) pain and/or disability. (Evidence: Level II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 8. Stratify patients based on risk. (Evidence: Level I-II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 9. Establish treatment goals of opioid therapy with regard to pain relief and improvement in function. (Evidence: Level I-II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 10. Obtain a robust opioid agreement, which is followed by all parties. (Evidence: Level III; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate)ii. Assessment of Effectiveness of Long-Term Opioid Therapy 11. Initiate opioid therapy with low dose, short-acting drugs, with appropriate monitoring. (Evidence: Level II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 12. Consider up to 40 morphine milligram equivalent (MME) as low dose, 41 to 90 MME as a moderate dose, and greater than 91 MME as high dose. (Evidence: Level II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 13. Avoid long-acting opioids for the initiation of opioid therapy. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong) 14. Recommend methadone only for use after failure of other opioid therapy and only by clinicians with specific training in its risks and uses, within FDA recommended doses. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong) 15. Understand and educate the patients of the effectiveness and adverse consequences. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong) 16. Similar effectiveness for long-acting and short-acting opioids with increased adverse consequences of long-acting opioids. (Evidence: Level I-II; Strength of recommendation: Moderate to strong) 17. Periodically assess pain relief and/or functional status improvement of ≥ 30% without adverse consequences. (Evidence: Level II; Strength of recommendation: Moderate) 18. Recommend long-acting or high dose opioids only in specific circumstances with severe intractable pain. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong)iii. Monitoring for Adherence and Side Effects 19. Monitor for adherence, abuse, and noncompliance by UDT and PDMPs. (Evidence: Level I-II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate to strong) 20. Monitor patients on methadone with an electrocardiogram periodically. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong). 21. Monitor for side effects including constipation and manage them appropriately, including discontinuation of opioids when indicated. (Evidence: Level I; Strength of Recommendation: Strong)iv. Final Phase 22. May continue with monitoring with continued medical necessity, with appropriate outcomes. (Evidence: Level I-II; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) 23. Discontinue opioid therapy for lack of response, adverse consequences, and abuse with rehabilitation. (Evidence: Level III; Strength of Recommendation: Moderate) CONCLUSIONS: These guidelines were developed based on comprehensive review of the literature, consensus among the panelists, in consonance with patient preferences, shared decision-making, and practice patterns with limited evidence, based on randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to improve pain and function in chronic non-cancer pain on a long-term basis. Consequently, chronic opioid therapy should be provided only to patients with proven medical necessity and stability with improvement in pain and function, independently or in conjunction with other modalities of treatments in low doses with appropriate adherence monitoring and understanding of adverse events.Key words: Chronic pain, persistent pain, non-cancer pain, controlled substances, substance abuse, prescription drug abuse, dependency, opioids, prescription monitoring, drug testing, adherence monitoring, diversionDisclaimer: The guidelines are based on the best available evidence and do not constitute inflexible treatment recommendations. Due to the changing body of evidence, this document is not intended to be a "standard of care."
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February 2017

A report of spinal subdural abscess provides incomplete and inaccurate information.

J Neurosurg Spine 2016 Apr 1;24(4):675-7. Epub 2016 Jan 1.

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY; Pain Management Center of Paducah, KY; 

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http://dx.doi.org/10.3171/2015.7.SPINE15846DOI Listing
April 2016

Efficacy of Epidural Injections in Managing Chronic Spinal Pain: A Best Evidence Synthesis.

Pain Physician 2015 11;18(6):E939-1004

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

Background: Epidural injections have been used since 1901 in managing low back pain and sciatica. Spinal pain, disability, health, and economic impact continue to increase, despite numerous modalities of interventions available in managing chronic spinal pain. Thus far, systematic reviews performed to assess the efficacy of epidural injections in managing chronic spinal pain have yielded conflicting results.

Objective: To evaluate and update the clinical utility of the efficacy of epidural injections in managing chronic spinal pain.

Study Design: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials of epidural injections in managing chronic spinal pain.

Methods: In this systematic review, randomized trials with a placebo control or an active-control design were included. The outcome measures were pain relief and functional status improvement. The quality of each individual article was assessed by Cochrane review criteria, as well as the Interventional Pain Management Techniques-Quality Appraisal of Reliability and Risk of Bias Assessment (IPM-QRB). Best evidence synthesis was conducted based on the qualitative level of evidence (Level I to V). Data sources included relevant literature identified through searches of PubMed for a period starting in 1966 through August 2015; Cochrane reviews; and manual searches of the bibliographies of known primary and review articles.

Results: A total of 52 trials met inclusion criteria. Meta-analysis was not feasible. The evidence in managing lumbar disc herniation or radiculitis is Level II for long-term improvement either with caudal, interlaminar, or transforaminal epidural injections with no significant difference among the approaches. The evidence is Level II for long-term management of cervical disc herniation with interlaminar epidural injections. The evidence is Level II to III in managing thoracic disc herniation with an interlaminar approach. The evidence is Level II for caudal and lumbar interlaminar epidural injections with Level III evidence for lumbar transforaminal epidural injections for lumbar spinal stenosis. The evidence is Level III for cervical spinal stenosis management with an interlaminar approach. The evidence is Level II for axial or discogenic pain without facet arthropathy or disc herniation treated with caudal or lumbar interlaminar injections in the lumbar region; whereas it is Level III in the cervical region treated with cervical interlaminar epidural injections. The evidence for post lumbar surgery syndrome is Level II with caudal epidural injections and for post cervical surgery syndrome it is Level III with cervical interlaminar epidural injections.

Limitations: Even though this is a large systematic review with inclusion of a large number of randomized controlled trials, the paucity of high quality randomized trials literature continues to confound the evidence.

Conclusion: This systematic review, with an assessment of the quality of manuscripts and outcome parameters, shows the efficacy of epidural injections in managing a multitude of chronic spinal conditions.
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November 2015

Comparison of Triamcinolone vs. Betamethasone Provides Inaccurate Information: RE: Comparison of Pain Score Reduction Using Triamcinolone vs. Betamethasone in Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injections for Lumbosacral Radicular Pain. McCormick Z et al. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2015 Apr 16 [Epub ahead of print].

Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2015 Dec;94(12):e121-2

Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky and Pain Management Center of Paducah Paducah, Kentucky Tri-State Spine Care Institute Cincinnati, Ohio NeuroInterventional Spine Service and Interventional Care Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, Massachusetts and Department of Radiology Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/PHM.0000000000000378DOI Listing
December 2015

To the Editor.

Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2015 Oct;40(19):E1071

Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine University of Louisville Louisville, KY and Pain Management Center of Paducah, Paducah, KY E-mail: Tri-State Spine Care Institute Cincinnati, OH E-mail: Department of Anesthesia LSU Health Science Center, New Orleans, LA E-mail: Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA E-mail:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/BRS.0000000000001084DOI Listing
October 2015

Pros and Cons of Opioids and Prediction of Sustained Use Provides Long-awaited Answers With Clarity.

Clin J Pain 2015 Jul;31(7):672

*Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, University of Louisville, Louisville †Pain Management Center of Paducah, Paducah §UK HealthCare Pain Services ∥Department of Anesthesiology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY ‡Tri-State Spine Care Institute Cincinnati, OH ¶Department of Anesthesiology Pain Services #Department of Pharmacology, LSU School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/AJP.0000000000000163DOI Listing
July 2015

The effect of abuse-deterrent extended-release oxycodone leads to inappropriate conclusions with over estimation of safety of abuse-deterrent formulations.

Pain Physician 2015 May-Jun;18(3):E445-6

University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky Medical Director Pain Management Center of Paducah Medical Director Tri-State Spine Care Institute Cincinnati, Ohio Department of Radiology Massachusetts General Hospital Harvard Medical School.

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August 2015

Zohydro approval by food and drug administration: controversial or frightening?

Pain Physician 2014 Jul-Aug;17(4):E437-50

Pain Management Center of Paducah, Paducah, KY, and University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.

The actions and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are crucial to the entire population of the U.S., specifically the public who take a multitude of drugs and providers who prescribe drugs and devices. Further, the FDA is relevant to investors, specifically in regards to biotech and pharmaceutical companies involved in developing new drugs. The FDA has been criticized for a lack of independence on the one hand and excessive regulatory and expanding authority without evidence and consistency of the actions on the other hand. The FDA approved a single-entity, long-acting, hydrocodone product (Zohydro, Zogenix, San Diego, CA) on October 25, 2013, against the recommendation of the FDA's own appointed scientific advisory panel, which voted 11 to 2 against the approval of Zohydro. Subsequent to the approval, multiple consumer safety organizations, health care agencies, addiction treatment providers, professional organizations, and other groups on the frontline of the opioid addiction epidemic have expressed concern. In addition, the US Congress and various state attorneys general raised serious concerns about the approval of Zohydro, which is highly addictive and may enhance the opioid addiction epidemic. Supporters of Zohydro contend that it is necessary and essential to manage chronic pain and improve functional status with no additional risk. Over the past 15 years, prescriptions for opioids have skyrocketed with the United States consuming more than 84% of the global oxycodone and more than 99% of the hydrocodone supply. The sharp increase in opioid prescribing has led to parallel increases in opioid addiction and overdose deaths, surpassing motor vehicle injuries in the U.S. Recent studies assessing the trends of medical use and misuse of opioid analgesics from 2000 to 2011 have concluded that the present trend of the continued increase in the medical use of opioid analgesics appears to contribute to increasing misuse, resulting in multiple health consequences, despite numerous regulations enforced by multiple organizations. The approval of Zohydro and its defense from the FDA were based on a misunderstanding of the prevalence of chronic severe disabling pain. Based on inaccurate data from the Institute of Medicine, in part caused by conflicts of interest, 100 million persons have been described to suffer from severe pain - the correct number is 22.6 million. This manuscript analyzes 3 important principles of drug approval and utilization based on safety, efficacy, and medical necessity. Based on the limited literature that the authors were able to review including that which was submitted to the FDA by the manufacturers, it appears the safety, efficacy, and medical necessity were not demonstrated. In fact, the study submitted to the FDA showed a 50% pain improvement in only 48% of the patients in the treatment group and 21% of the patients in the placebo group at 85 day follow-up. This is a statistically significant result but its clinical relevance is unknown. The FDA approval decision occurring against the backdrop of the advisory panel recommendation is concerning and may result in serious consequences in the future.
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November 2014
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