The Olin Brookings Commission—Driving Quality of Life
The Olin Brookings Commission is a multiyear initiative, underwritten by The Bellwether Foundation Inc., that convenes world-class WashU Olin Business School faculty, Brookings Institution scholars and industry leaders to explore issues of global significance. Each year, a new commission will direct research and gather data to examine megatrend topics that affect the quality of life in our community. Each commission’s work culminates with a report to national, regional and local decision-makers, summarizing its conclusions and recommending business strategies and policy measures designed to drive tangible impact on the world.
The 2021–22 Olin Brookings Commission
Inaugural commission develops strategies, recommendations for curbing the opioid epidemic.
video According to some reports, more than 100 billion prescription hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were distributed in the United States between 2006 to 2014. A staggering percentage of suspicious opioid transactions has fueled a long-lasting epidemic of opioid dependency and death. In 2020 alone, approximately 69,700 people died of overdoses involving opioids in the United States.
In the first of three projects by the Olin Brookings Commission, researchers and commission members aimed to tackle the opioid epidemic and, specifically, the patterns of diversion within the drug supply chain that have fueled costly and deadly patterns of opioid dependence and death in communities across the country.
In collaboration with Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights, the research team tapped into advances in data collection, data mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning to tackle the problem. The solution: Olin researchers developed a suite of anomaly detection tools to identify diversion trends in data submitted to a database maintained by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Using historical data from the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) database from 2006 to 2012, including more than 400 million opioid transactions and 277,000 buyers, researchers developed a tool to flag and stop fraudulent opioid shipments before they are diverted. The team identified patterns among likely diverters and tested their findings against a known database of convicted buyers.
The tool is designed to flag future diverters with 100% precision accuracy (i.e., if the tool flags a buyer as a diverter, it is almost guaranteed that the prediction is correct). In other words, the tool will not produce false positives. The team achieved that level of precision accuracy because the tool “lives with” a moderate degree (51%) of recall accuracy (i.e., the tool catches about one-in-two diverters). In other words, the tool will result in many false negatives.
Download the 2021–22 commission report