Latest Milestones and Updates

  • Olin research develops anomaly detection tools to flag suspicious opioid shipments.
  • Commission members guide future research and begin to develop initial policy recommendations.

Olin Brookings Commission

  • Tackling the opioid epidemic

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 First Commission

Inaugural commission will examine strategies for curbing the opioid epidemic.

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.

Suppose suspicious orders could be stopped at the source—even before they got into the hands of those at risk. Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights is leveraging new advances in data collection and data mining, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to tackle this pernicious issue.

The first Olin Brookings Commission will demonstrate how these technologies can address this scourge, evaluate existing policy obstacles and reveal opportunities for policy changes to empower industry and government to implement a real-time detection and alert system. Read more.

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Recent News

Retrieving Data

Inaugural Commission Members

Anthony Sardella The Hon. Mary Bono Dr. Ann Marie Dale Van Ingram Gina Papush Darrell M. West
  • Anthony Sardella, founder, evolve24; faculty member, WashU Olin Business School. Commission chair.
  • The Hon. Mary Bono, board member, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; former US representative.
  • Dr. Ann Marie Dale, assistant professor of medicine and occupational therapy, Washington University School of Medicine.
  • Van Ingram, executive director, Kentucky Office of Drug Control.
  • Gina Papush, global chief data and analytics officer, Cigna.
  • Darrell M. West, vice president and director, Governance Studies; senior fellow, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings.

Latest Milestones

  • August 19, 2021. Second commission meeting on the opioids crisis reviews research progress, offers further direction.
  • August 16, 2021. Team from Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights reports update on machine learning efforts to flag suspicious opioid transactions. Read more.
  • May 12, 2021. First meeting of the inaugural Olin Brookings Commission.

Commission News Updates

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Leading the Research

Seethu Seetharaman Michael Wall Luoyexin (Annie) Shi

Seethu Seetharaman, academic director of Olin’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights, will lead the research effort with support from Michael Wall, professor of practice and CABI co-director, along with PhD candidate Luoyexin (Annie) Shi.

Project Timeline

Project Timeline

Early Research Findings

A CABI analysis of 400 million opioid transactions between 2006 and 2012 found:

  • Opioid purchase levels: “good” buyers purchase lower levels of opioids on a per-unit basis, their behaviors are very similar to each other's and the amounts they purchase over time are consistent.
  • Purchase frequency: “good” buyers purchase lower levels of opioids on a per-unit basis, their purchase amounts are consistent over time and buyers look very similar to each other.
  • Population density: “good” buyers purchase lower levels of opioids on a per-unit basis per day and per person. Again, purchase amounts are consistent over time, and buyers look very similar to each other.