April 30, 2019

ICRE Alumnus Awarded PCORI Funding for the Largest-Ever Behavioral Trial in Sickle Cell Disease

Charles Jonassaint, PhD, MHS, Assistant Professor of Medicine and former CEED and PCOR K12 Scholar, received funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute for his latest project, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Real-Time Pain-Management Intervention for Sickle cell via Mobile Applications (CaRISMA). Dr. Jonassaint and his colleagues will be working on this project for three and a half years and are partnering with three community-based organizations.

Sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 people in the United States, most of whom belong to racial minority groups and typically receive lesser-quality health care. Many people living with SCD suffer from daily pain or unpredictable and sudden pain attacks that require immediate medical attention. Despite their lack of long-term effectiveness and their significant side effects, opioids or narcotic medication are the main form of treatment. Effective alternatives are yet to be tested in SCD.

CaRISMA will compare the effectiveness of two behavioral pain interventions that are known to work for reducing pain symptoms but have not been tested in a large study of adults with SCD-related pain. The first intervention, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), focuses on helping individuals manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to better control their stress and pain. The second, pain education, focuses on helping individuals learn more about their pain and the underlying chronic condition.

The two interventions will be delivered to a total of 350 patients with SCD-related pain using smartphone apps that allow patients to access the training programs on their own phones, wherever they want, whenever they want. The outcomes of interest—to both the SCD community as well as people suffering from all types of chronic pain—include how much pain individuals experience day-to-day, how much their pain interferes with their daily life activities, and whether either intervention has a positive effect on mental health, such as depression.

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