Opioid use for chronic pain management accounts for the bulk of a global market valued at $25.4 billion in 2018. Unfortunately, long-term opioid use frequently leads to addiction and abuse. Overdose by prescription and illicit opioids currently causes 128 deaths each day in the U.S. alone, according to the CDC, There is huge demand for effective alternatives to opioid treatment for chronic pain.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles-based AppliedVR released the results of a study published in JMIR-FR about virtual-reality (VR) therapy for self-managed chronic pain care at home. The study found the skills-based VR treatment program for chronic pain was feasible, scalable, and effective with multiple sources of chronic pain.

Last month Geisinger’s Steele Institute for Health Innovation and Musculoskeletal Institute announced a partnership with AppliedVR to study VR as a substitute for opioids in the treatment of both chronic and acute pain. Geisinger and Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, are both working with AppliedVR in this study. Geisinger is a health care system with nine hospital campuses, more than half a million health plan members, two research centers, and a medical school. Geisinger’s participation in the study will use virtual reality for patient acute pain management following knee replacement surgery and with patients with chronic lower back pain.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded AppliedVR with more than $2.9 million to conduct clinical trials with two VR therapeutic platforms. The AppliedVR programs create environments that teach patients skills for managing pain that include breathing techniques, mindfulness, and positive thinking.

We look forward to learning more about the progress and the results of AppliedVR’s study. We root for any uses of digital therapeutics as effective alternatives to pharmaceuticals in general and specifically for opioids.