Regions Central Virginia

Firm’s tool assesses risks for opioid overdoses

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Photo courtesy Venebio

On average, more than 40 people die in the U.S. per day from unintentional overdoses from prescription opioids.

“It’s tragically ironic that prescription opioid overdose deaths have increased [from 4,000 in 1999 to 15,000 in 2015 in the U.S.] in a time when we have all the data we need to effectively target at-risk patients and address their personal risk factors,” says Dr. Barb Zedler, chief medical officer at Venebio Group, a Richmond-based life-science consultancy.

Venebio recently introduced Venebio Opioid Advisor, a risk-screening tool for opioid overdoses. The software tool analyzes the top risk factors associated with an overdose and predicts a patient’s likelihood of experiencing an overdose with 90 percent accuracy.

“What we are focused on is the overdoses of prescription opioids that are used by patients treated for pain,” says Zedler, noting that much of the national attention to the opioid epidemic has focused on addiction.

Venebio has identified 16 factors most associated with prescription opioid overdoses and catalogued them in a risk index. The strongest predictor is a history of abuse or addiction of any substance, particularly opioids. Other factors include a serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, as well as impairment of the liver, kidneys or lungs.

Venebio’s Opioid Advisor can be embedded in electronic medical records or databases. “It provides clinical decision support guidance for health professionals,” Zedler says. “It is designed to change opioid prescribing behavior.”

Richmond-based Virginia Premier Health Plan Inc. is among the first organizations to implement the tool. It is also being used by Rhode Island-based Amazing Charts, an electronic medical records (EMR) firm, and Amida Care, a private, nonprofit health-care organization in New York City. Other clients include health plans, university health systems, EMR systems and pharmacies in Virginia and New York.

In addition to its Richmond office, Venebio has a second site in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The company has 10 full-time employees and about 250 mostly doctoral-level scientists under contract for consulting work.  “We can put together a pretty impressive team with low overhead,” says Duff Young, the company’s chief operating officer.

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