Progress in addressing the opioid crisis will require great minds, great leadership

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. is $78.5 billion a year.

This includes the cost of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.

The numbers are stunning, but they still pale in comparison to the physical, emotional and psychological toll this crisis is taking on the families of those who are addicted to opioids and those who have lost their lives to the addiction.

Aram Nerpouni, president and CEO at BioEnterprise, is leading an effort to find solutions that can at least slow down this health epidemic.

“The fundamental challenge is that everyone sees one piece of the puzzle,” Nerpouni says. “You may be a doctor prescribing opioids. It could be after a surgery or it could be to deal with pain. There might be a lot of reasons why someone would prescribe an opioid. They are seeing one part of that patient experience. Then you have the pharmacist and all the other people in health care throughout the value chain.”

The drug companies also have a perspective. It leads to a cascading effect, Nerpouni says.

“There is the impact on the individual’s health and then a workforce impact when that person drops out of the workforce,” he says. “There is the legal aspect for those who are addicted who may be struggling to acquire the drugs to feed that addiction. That feeds into a community issue whether it’s the Department of Justice, or foster care. A whole cascade from individual to family to community that is creating such an issue. There are large societal implications for this crisis.”

To help combat this issue, BioEnterprise, Accenture and the Global Center for Health Innovation announced the formation of a national, collaborative working group tapping expertise in government, health care, business and nonprofit organizations to develop data-driven solutions dedicated to treatment and prevention of opioid addiction.

Based in Cleveland, the working group will have national reach and employ a multifaceted approach to solving the opioid problem. The group initiated its efforts in March by gathering about 75 experts from across the country to meet in Cleveland.

“Accenture is a thought-leader in this field, and with their guidance, the working group will integrate clinical and community data sources to drive evidence-based changes to our community, opioid addiction programs and services,” Nerpouni says.

We offer our thoughts and prayers to guide their success in this effort.

Mark Scott is Senior Associate Editor at Smart Business Cleveland