2019 Canadian Pain Task Force update

December 17, 2019

This past spring, Health Canada established the Canadian Pain Task Force (CPTF) to identify and address the barriers that prevent people with persistent pain from receiving the care and treatment they need. The Task Force released its first report in June, which assesses the current state of chronic pain care, education and research in Canada and highlights the profound impact of chronic pain on Canadians.

Since that time, the Task Force has been committed to meeting with people with pain, clinical experts, researchers, and policy makers to gather feedback and drive much-needed action on pain. Below, we’ve summarized some of the federal action that has been taken since that time and the CPTF work that is taking place to drive further change.

National action on pain

Since its inception, the CPTF has been meeting with federal decision makers to advocate for action on chronic pain. Below is a summary of initial actions by federal agencies that are being implemented to address the crisis of pain in Canada. The Task Force will continue to advocate for action in the remaining two years of its mandate.

Health Canada

  • Ongoing support of the Canadian Pain Task Force
  • Creation of an interdepartmental working group on chronic pain, which includes Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces, Correctional Service Canada, Statistics Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada
  • Integrating the chronic pain perspective in the response to the drug overdose crisis and Canada’s drug policy
  • Funding initiatives to improve pain management through the Substance Use and Addictions Program
  • Providing $2M in funding to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada to develop a curriculum for future physicians in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of pain
  • Providing $1M in funding to the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, in partnership with the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada and the Canadian Association of Social Work Education, for an inter-professional education program related to managing substance use and pain

Public Health Agency of Canada

  • Conducting surveillance and epidemiological research to better understand the links between the overdose crisis, prescription opioids and pain

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

  • Increasing pain-related research by $87M from 2012 to 2017
  • Increasing funding for the Chronic Pain Network by $12.5M from 2016 to 2021
  • Providing $1.6M in funding to Solutions for Kids in Pain from 2019 to 2023 to mobilize knowledge related to pediatric pain
  • Funding Opioid Crisis Knowledge Synthesis Grants: $1.85M to fund 22 knowledge synthesis projects related to various aspects of drug overdose crisis, including safe opioid prescribing, cannabis and pain
  • Funding evaluation of interventions to address the overdose crisis, which includes $500,000 for 5 projects related to non-pharmacological pain interventions
  • Providing $248,331 in funding for two one-year projects related to cannabis research and pain management
  • Mapping pain research to inform strategic planning

Statistics Canada

  • Collecting data requirements related to mental health and substance use disorder with links to pain

Veterans Affairs Canada

  • Establishing a Centre of Excellence on Chronic Pain Research with $20.1M in funding over 5 years and $5M ongoing

Correctional Services Canada

  • Updated Guidance on Chronic Non-Cancer Pain Management to assist practitioners involved in assessing and managing chronic non-cancer pain among people who are incarcerated

Indigenous Services Canada

  • Examining the knowledge gaps in how Indigenous peoples may experience and manage chronic pain differently than the broader Canadian population

Canadian Pain Task Force consultations

The Task Force met with the new Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Stephen Lucas, who has confirmed his support for the work set out for the CPTF. Task Force Members discussed pain research as a priority and the importance of engaging and connecting with stakeholders to share knowledge and implement evidence-based solutions.

Members of the CPTF held a workshop to explore the connections between chronic pain, mental health, and substance use at the recent “Issues of Substance Conference” in Ottawa. Conference participants provided input to CPTF members about best practices in managing concurrent chronic pain, mental health, and substance use disorders.

CPTF members also met with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC) to provide additional feedback on their draft Framework on a Regulatory Approach to Physicians Who Care for Patients with Acute and Chronic Pain and/or Opioid Use Disorders and Prescribe Opioids.

The CPTF also held a workshop at the Pain Society of Alberta Conference in October of this year, during which 45 stakeholders representing diverse perspectives provided their input on regional best practices and barriers to care.

Members of the External Advisory Panel supporting the CPTF participated in a workshop to review the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada’s (AFMC) proposed pain curriculum outline and select modules. More information about this project, funded by Health Canada Substance Use and Addiction Program, is available on the AFMC website.

Members of the External Advisory Panel supporting the CPTF also participated in the recent Canadian Institute for Military and Veterans Health Research Forum (CIVHR) Forum to discuss ways in which the Task Force can support the work of the recently announced Centre of Excellence on Chronic Pain by Veteran Affairs Canada.

Additionally, members of the CPTF presented their work and perspectives at a meeting of the federal, provincial and territorial Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Network, which shares best practices with prescription monitoring programs across Canada. The CPTF highlighted the need to better support effective pain management through prescription monitoring programs. Feedback from the Task Force will help inform the PMP Network’s ongoing work from a pain perspective.

CPTF Co-Chair and Pain BC Executive Director, Maria Hudspith, along with Dr. Lori Montgomery, Chair of the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s Chronic Pain Member Interest Group, hosted a discussion on chronic pain at the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s Family Medicine Forum. The talk focused on the challenges and best practices for preventing and managing pain in primary care settings. Th Chronic Pain Member Interest Group agreed to engage family physicians across Canada to provide the CPTF with their perspectives on this issue.