Washington, DC—Medical foods can play a beneficial role in the management of acute and chronic pain and should be the subject of more research, the Natural Products Association (NPA) said incomments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pain Management Task Force.

In the comments, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., president and CEO of NPA, wrote, "While NSAIDS can provide significant pain relief for inflammation, arthritis, muscle pains, headaches, and acute pains from injury or surgery, the category of 'medical foods', recognized by FDA for the dietary management of a disease or condition for which distinctive nutritional requirements, may provide unique benefits in these conditions. Medical foods have the potential to improve patient outcomes by alleviating pain and lowering the medication dosage while maximizing tolerability and safety."

In anews release, Dr. Fabricant said, “As policymakers address the opioid crisis, we need to consider all available options for managing chronic pain. Expanding access to medical foods is consistent with the Task Force’s calls for individualized, patient-centered pain management. More research and better policies on medical foods could improve the lives of millions of Americans. We look forward to working with the Department in the future and thank them for the opportunity to comment on this very important matter.”

NPA pointed out in the release that acetaminophen is associated with significant adverse events, including increased risk of falls, depression, sexual dysfunction, nausea, constipation, hormonal abnormalities, dependence, overdose, and death. NSAID-related GI bleeding is responsible for 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year, NPA noted. What's more, due to to high risk of negative outcomes in elderly patients, the American Geriatrics Society recommends that NSAIDS be restricted, or even eliminated in individuals older than 65 years of age.

“Increasing prescription doses and adverse events from managing acute and chronic pain have created a need to develop safer therapies,” said Dr. Fabricant. “Medical foods and foods for special dietary use are two categories that are underutilized by physicians. Their claims are substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence and there is a labeling requirement that differentiates them from other food products. They must also be given under the supervision of a physician.”