Big Pharma is Feeling the Heat of the Opioid Crisis

Apr 01, 2019

Recent developments in the fight against the opioid crisis are placing liability on pharmaceutical wholesalers and manufacturers that fail to effectively monitor the supply and distribution of controlled substances. Settlements with several large distributors have already been reached, after alleged violations of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). As lawsuits continue to be filed, coupled with increased pressure from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to put more effective monitoring procedures in place.The use of advanced analytics and effective reporting tools can help identify and prevent oversupply vulnerabilities.

Holes in the Current Monitoring of Controlled Substances

The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to the monitoring of controlled substances, and has done so for years, but gaps in the monitoring systems leave vulnerabilities for error and oversupply. Currently, distributors are required to report suspicious ordering to the DEA, however due to limited information, a distributor only knows the quantity it ships to a particular dispenser. Distributors do not have access to other distributor databases, leaving a gap in knowing the total volume of the medicine supply for a city, county, or state. In 2016, Congress passed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act marking an important change in information sharing and collaboration among distributors, pharmacists, prescribing physicians, manufacturers, and the DEA. That said, although the CSA puts in place reporting requirements from the manufacturer and distributor back to the DEA, the bill does not put pressure on manufacturers and distributors to employ better analytics and monitoring that would better assess the oversupply vulnerability left open by current monitoring methods.

Proactive vs Reactive Monitoring

Most manufacturers and distributors utilize a reactive monitoring method around suspicious order monitoring.The current process involves tracking orders and watching for unusual spikes. Much of this monitoring is done manually, and with limited data sets. This process leads to a pattern of too little too late when efforts to monitor oversupply only catch the occurrences when they have already happened.By employing better monitoring that utilizes advanced analytic models to proactively identify patterns and anomalies, manufacturers and distributors in the pharmaceutical supply chain can better identify the oversupplying of controlled substances and decrease the liability that comes with the current fractured system.

In part two of our series, we will look at ways in which analytic solutions can be deployed to more effectively curtail the problems associated with suspicious order monitoring.