The first placebo-controlled trial of opioid analgesics for acute spinal pain (OPAL)


A research opportunity exists for a PhD student to join a world class team of researchers and make important discoveries on the efficacy and role of opioid analgesics in the management of people with spinal pain. As part of this research the candidate will be involved in conducting a clinical trial funded by the National Health and Research Council (NHMRC). This opportunity is available full time and would be suitable for students with a background in medicine, pharmacy, or management of spinal pain or musculoskeletal disorders from related health disciplines. A scholarship will be offered to the suitable candidate.


Associate Professor Christine Lin, Professor Chris Maher

Research Location

Camperdown - School of Public Health

Program Type



The OPAL trial is a randomised, placebo-controlled, triple-blinded trial to investigate the judicious use of opioid analgesics in people with acute, moderate to severe low back pain or neck pain. Participants will be recruited from general practice and randomised to receive opioid analgesics or placebo in addition to guideline care for up to 6 weeks. Participants will be followed for 3 months for efficacy outcomes (including pain intensity). Medication-related adverse events will be assessed and a cost-effectiveness analysis will be conducted. We will additionally assess long-term use and risk of inappropriate use of opioid analgesics for up to 12 months.

Additional Information

Associate Professor Christine Lin is Principal Research Fellow at Musculoskeletal Health Sydney, School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney. She is also an NHMRC Career Development Fellow. A/Prof Lin’s research is focused on investigating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatments for musculoskeletal conditions.

Prof Chris Maher is director of the Musculoskeletal Health Sydney research theme within the School of Public Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney. He is an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, and visiting professor at the University of Oxford.

Prof Andrew McLachlan is Professor of Pharmacy (Aged Care) in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney based at Concord Hospital. His research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of variability in response to medicines and how this informs the quality use of medicines. He leads the NHMRC-funded Centre of Research Excellence in Medicines and Ageing.

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low back pain, neck pain, opioid analgesics, clinical trials, pain management, medicines

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1922

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