The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative in spring 2018. This trans-NIH initiative will provide an additional $500 million in funding. The HEAL initiative will target two priority areas for research: to improve treatments for opioid misuse and addiction and to enhance pain management. The initiative will build on existing NIH research in substance use including basic science of pain and addiction, implementation science to develop treatment models, and research to integrate behavioral health interventions with pharmacotherapy.
The HEAL initiative will allocate $250 million for research to improve treatments for opioid misuse and addiction, with the majority of these funds going to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). One component will focus on developing new medications for substance use disorder that improve adherence to pharmacotherapy and new medications for overdose reversal or opioid-induced respiratory depression. Another component aims to optimize effective treatments for opioid use disorder, and may be of particular interest to health economists and health services researchers. One element of this component is to leverage and expand the existing Clinical Trials Network at NIH to study new treatments and treatment models by adding new sites and investigators. Additionally, in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, NIDA will initiate a HEALing Communities Study to implement evidence-based interventions within healthcare, behavioral health, justice systems and community organizations to prevent and treat substance use disorder. Finally, NIDA will establish a criminal justice community opioid intervention network. An additional component to be conducted with the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) will focus on determining best practices for care of neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.
For health services and health economic researchers, the HEAL initiative provides an opportunity evaluate the resources required for opioid use disorder treatment strategies, the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of these strategies. In turn, economic evaluations can help inform policy decisions and promote long-term sustainability. For more information about how to get involved in health economic research related to these topics please look at the NIH HEAL initiative webpage for updates, the NIDA topics of Special and Continuing Interest webpage for specific calls for funding, the NIH Health Economic Priorities webpage and feel free to contact CHERISH or visit the CHERISH Consultation Service.