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Can The Market Actually Solve The Ongoing Opioid Crisis?

Can The Market Actually Solve The Ongoing Opioid Crisis?

By John Bianchi

In the United States, more than 90 people die every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids, and more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for not using prescription opioids as directed. Governor Rick Scott of Florida has decided that enough is enough. Relaying in a speech on March 19th that it is critical to “stop the addiction in the beginning,” the Florida Governor signed a bill designed to curb the opioid crisis at the source.

States like Florida and Ohio have been devastated by an out-of-control crisis surrounding prescription opioids and heroin addiction. In North Carolina, there has been a 73 percent increase in prescription opioid-related deaths since 2005 coupled with a 584 percent increase in heroin-related deaths. Due to the decades-long abundant prescription of narcotic drugs, incentivized by pharmaceutical company profit margins, America is suffering a massive opioid addiction crisis. This crisis is having the most marked impact on rural and small towns because of poor education of the harms of prescription drugs and their intended use and less access to long-term treatment options for addicts.

A Market-Developed First Step

While numerous government programs, committees, and politicians have tried to reverse the course of this increasing crisis, one North Carolina company has found a solution to reducing the exposure of prescription drugs to minors and at-risk individuals. North Carolina startup DisposeRx has partnered with Walmart to offer a new disposal method of surplus individual pills in an effort to reduce the potential for abuse.

By developing a solution that is mixed with water and solidifies in pill bottles, DisposeRx has created a solution to safely and permanently isolate unused or disposed of pills. This is the first time a major pharmacy has taken a step forward in an effort to curb the devastating effects that the opioid crisis has on individuals and families where now nearly three people die every day in states like North Carolina.

The crisis has also had a huge monetary impact on states as well. In 2015, unintentional opioid-related deaths resulted in a $1.3 billion cost to North Carolina alone. Companies like DisposeRx seek to provide a market solution that will impact the state both societally and monetarily for the better. “Seventy percent of heroin addictions start in the medicine cabinet,” said William Simpson, president of DisposeRx, “our goal is to break that chain and remove that illicit access to medication.”

Government Solutions Are, at Best, Slow

Often, individuals look to the government to solve societal crises. However, time and again, government responses to crises are often slow and misguided. Most recently in May 2017, the state of Ohio launched five lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies in response to the opioid crisis in the state. “They knew all of it was wrong and they did it anyway…” said State Attorney General Mike DeWine in response to the allegation that several drug companies and doctors have been pushing prescription drugs for profit rather than with real intent to alleviate pain.

Although suing a company for malpractice may indeed be within the state’s power, it’s not an active solution to curb the problem. While litigation is the knee-jerk response, the time lost in the courts until a verdict is reached is a classic case of slow-moving bureaucracy. Innovators and entrepreneurs are in the business of delivering real solutions to challenges in society while encouraging people to flourish.

Private companies and nonprofits with socially responsible values often make the most direct and immediate impact on ongoing social crises. Companies such as TOMS shoes providing shoes to individuals in economically poor countries or companies like Apple and Google who have taken a proactive approach to being environmentally conscious are two such examples. DisposeRx is providing an active and immediately impactful solution to the opioid crisis. Moreover, it’s often the case that government intervention is tied to the creation of more problems in society rather than solutions. The Prohibition era of the 1920s and 30s actually increased violence and criminal activity rather than solving what was seen as a societal crisis in alcohol consumption.

While there is still much to be done in curbing opioid-related deaths in states like North Carolina, DisposeRx provides a powerful solution to reducing the impact these drugs are having on small towns and low-income communities. Companies like DisposeRx employ the ingenuity of entrepreneurs to solve social problems in a more effective and at faster rate than government solutions.

John Bianchi
John Bianchi is a marketing professional and the Chapter Leader for America’s Future Foundation in Raleigh. You can keep up to date with his articles on Medium here:
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