Government Relations Update

APA & Friends of NIDA host Congressional briefing on developing medications to treat addiction

NIDA and corporate leaders update federal staff on challenges for drug research.

On March 1, 2012, the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) coalition hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill titled Developing Medications to Treat Addiction: Challenges for Science, Policy, and Practice (PDF, 70KB). The briefing was the 16th in the Charles R. Schuster Congressional Briefing Series, which previously has included such topics as marijuana dependence, military and veteran populations, and the criminal justice system.  Organized by the Government Relations Office of the American Psychological Association’s Science Directorate, the briefing was cosponsored by 24 organizations in conjunction with the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus. Close to 100 were in attendance, including Congressional staff from 23 Senate and House offices, federal agency staff and other members of the science, advocacy and treatment communities.

The briefing featured a presentation on medications development research by NIDA Director Nora Volkow, followed by a roundtable discussion among national experts from NIDA and the pharmaceutical industry. The three speakers in addition to Volkow were Phil Skolnik, Director of NIDA’s Division of Pharmacotherapies; David Gastfriend, Vice President for Scientific Communications at Alkermes, Inc.; and Shaun Thaxter, President of Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 

Central to the discussion were the questions of why pharmaceutical companies have reduced their research in the area of psychopharmaceuticals in recent years and what incentives are needed to foster more research on addiction treatment. Panelists explained how the market for addiction treatment is different from that of other medications and the challenges this presents for individual companies. Examples were provided of past models of collaboration between NIDA and pharmaceutical companies that led to successful development of treatments.  Panelists also pointed out ways in which upcoming changes in the U.S. health care system present new opportunities for the field.

Charles O’Keefe of Virginia Commonwealth University moderated the discussion and made a special point to laud the work of the psychological science community in the development of behavioral and psychosocial interventions that are the mainstays of addiction therapy, especially for disorders like methamphetamine addiction, for which no pharmacotherapies currently exist.


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