Objective: This paper presents the method we used in programming research on the efficacy of therapeutic interventions for nine chronic benign pain disorders.
Methods: We started with an inventory to identify commonly applied interventions. For these interventions we searched the literature to identify gaps in evidence. First, we searched for recent reviews, of which we assessed the methodologic quality. If only reviews of poor or moderate quality were found, a new systematic review was recommended. When we found no recent reviews, we searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). If there was insufficient or inconsistent evidence, the performance of a new RCT was advised. This structured procedure resulted in a list with topics for which new systematic reviews were recommended and topics for which new RCTs were needed. These lists were the starting points for priority setting by four Centers for Pain Management and Research. All members of the centers were asked to state the priority of each topic. The resulting hierarchy of topics for their own center was discussed in a meeting in each center, giving participants the opportunity to elucidate their views and considerations.
Results: The final result was a robust priority list for the need of research (systematic reviews and RCTs) on chronic benign pain syndromes.
Discussion: The strength and weaknesses of this approach are discussed. This method of priority setting is by no means restricted to treatments for chronic pain; it is also a useful approach for programming research to enable evidence-based medicine in other fields of interest.