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article imageTackling the opioid crisis through innovative technology

By Karen Graham     Jul 25, 2017 in Technology
In response to the opioid crisis and the escalating number of overdoses from prescription medicines, heroin and opioids in the United States, innovators and tech companies are using technology to create solutions.
Opioid addiction in the U.S. is skyrocketing, with nearly 100 people dying every day from drug overdoses, more than those who die from shootings and car accidents. Based on the latest figures, over 20.5 million Americans aged 12 or older have a substance abuse disorder.
The number of deaths every year is tragic in itself, but the impact of those deaths and the number of people addicted to drugs goes far beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) statistics are telling us.
Today, the opioid crisis is costing the U.S. economy over $80 billion a year. The crisis has resulted in lower worker productivity, lost tax revenues, increased costs from demands placed on our criminal justice system and our health care system.
The amount of money lost is exorbitant and covers the whole spectrum of socio-political and economic concerns.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was appointed by President Trump earlier this year to head up a f...
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was appointed by President Trump earlier this year to head up a federal Drug Task Force, but little has been done.
Gage Skidmore
What is being done so far to stop the opioid crisis?
A number of tech companies have already developed test strips that can identify a number of drugs, from cannabis to heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl and even alcohol.
While at first glance, this method of testing appears unrelated to the opioid crisis, the new test strips can help shift data collection from death and overdose statistics to early detection and overdose prevention.
Toronto-based biotech firm BTNX is a leader in rapid, point-of-care diagnostics (POC). They specialize in innovation, research, development and manufacturing of advanced in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests for laboratories, clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices.
BTNX's Rapid Response branded products include fertility, drugs of abuse tests, tumor and cardiac markers, urinalysis, glucose monitoring systems, and alcohol tests. The POC market globally is huge, with thousands of companies involved.
On January 31, 2017, Zion Market Research published a report on the Point-of-Care market that included a market forecast for 2017 through 2022. In it, the POC market was valued at approximately $23.50 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately $40.50 billion by 2022, growing at a combined annual growth rate of around 10 percent between 2017 and 2022.
BTNX s Rapid Response test strips for fentanyl.
BTNX's Rapid Response test strips for fentanyl.
Dance Safe
Innovators look to technology for ways to battle opioid crisis
Massachusetts-based Biobot Labs was formed by scientists and designers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the result of a research collaboration between the departments of biological engineering and urban studies and planning. Their focus was to transform city wastewater plants into "cutting-edge public health observatories."
Biobot Labs collects its data using a patent-pending pipeline and robotics and analytics, along with biochemical assays.
Biobot's technology analyses human waste flowing through the sewers at various collection points, testing for metabolized traces of various drugs. The data will allow them to pinpoint where the highest population of opioid, cocaine users or alcohol consumers are located.
The information gleaned from the collection of the data will allow public health officials to improve on drug treatment and prevention efforts by knowing where to deploy their resources. The data indicates what types of drugs are being used and give officials an overall picture of the concentration of drug users in a given area. Previously, the only data available was on the number of deaths or overdoses.
Tracking the type of drugs being used and where most of the addicts are in municipalities is possibl...
Tracking the type of drugs being used and where most of the addicts are in municipalities is possible through ivvovative technology developed by Biobot Labs.
New Concord, Ohio Government
Creating a provider dashboard and patient engagement tool
Bob Goodman is the CEO and co-founder of RxAssurance, a Denver-based startup using tech to tackle the opioid epidemic.
Goodman cites some hard-to-swallow statistics on the opioid crisis - Every 28 minutes, a baby is born with withdrawal symptoms, and in the U.S., the opioid crisis is costing us $6,000 per second to address.
"That's just the tip of the iceberg," says Goodman.
He also notes that doctors in the U.S. write 259 million prescriptions for opiates every year. "That’s enough for every adult in the U.S. to get a full bottle."
Using their extensive backgrounds in tech, healthcare and substance abuse, in 2013, Goodman, and his colleagues set out to address the often difficult experiences of patients prescribed medications for depression, anxiety and other behavioral health issues. Two years later, they decided to apply their knowledge to the opioid crisis.
The team created a product called OpiSafe. Released on September 16, 2015, OpiSafe is a pain medication management web and mobile platform that works as both a provider dashboard and a patient engagement tool.
Rob Valuck, Ph.D., RPh, and Chief Strategy Officer at RxAssurance said on the product's release, “OpiSafe helps create guideline adherent treatment protocols to maximize therapeutic benefit and reduce the risk of poor outcomes, abuse or addiction.”
Spotlighting the OpiSafe prescribing solution.
Spotlighting the OpiSafe prescribing solution.
Rx Assurance‏
For the patient prescribed pain medication, the smartphone and web-based platform generates patient feedback on an ongoing basis. It also provides clinically validated assessments of pain, function and risk, combined with a medication diary with questions to create easily-quantifiable patient summaries.
OpiSafe also gives the treating physician massive amounts of data on the patient, including what prescriptions are being taken, how many doctors (as in doctor shopping) the patient has visited to get those prescriptions and other medications the patient might be taking that might cause dangerous interactions.
Getting this information through a state's prescription drug monitoring program, or DPMP database can be time-consuming and easy to overlook in a busy physician's office. OpiSafe also generates random drug screenings, delivered right to the patient's door. The patient can then go to a local lab for testing.
More about opioid crisis, impacts, Innovation, Technology, socioeconomic
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