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Corporate Responsibility: Addressing The U.S. Opioid Crisis
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Corporate Responsibility: Addressing The U.S. Opioid Crisis - Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: Addressing The U.S. Opioid Crisis

Executive Leadership Articles

Corporate Responsibility: Addressing The U.S. Opioid Crisis

According the the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die every day from an overdose of opioid drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention place the yearly burden of the opioid problem at $78.5 billion, “including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.” Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among people under 50 years of age. And the numbers seem to be climbing.

If the problem hasn’t personally touched every American yet, it doesn’t seem long before it will. A long-time employee at one American tech firm discovered this when he lost his 30-year-old son to an overdose, and when he asked his employer to do something about it, it responded in a powerful way. Leidos CEO Roger Krone wrote on the company’s blog, “In a brave and poignant email, John [the employee] challenged me and this company to take action. We accept his challenge. We’re exploring employee support programs and forums. We’re pursuing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, including CADCA, an organization dedicated to building drug-free communities … In the future, we hope to leverage our technology and our business relationships to create practical solutions that help address the problem head-on.”

John, the employee who lost his son, explained that as his story went to the rest of the company, many others communicated with him that they had also lost loved ones to this problem, or they had loved ones deeply enmeshed in the cycle of addiction.

Leidos is not alone in accepting that this problem is everyone’s problem. McKesson, a supplier to healthcare organizations of products and services, acknowledges its part in the supply chain and focuses on diversion, saying on its website that, “through our supply chain security programs and order monitoring initiatives, we can help prevent the diversion and abuse of prescription opioids while simultaneously protecting the availability of appropriate treatments for patients with serious illnesses and injuries.” Its strategy includes customer due diligence and ongoing oversight, regular customer education, a tightly controlled physical supply chain, and “ongoing state and federal collaboration efforts.” Two years ago, it created an opioid task force who produced a white paper called “Combating the Opioid Abuse Epidemic: A Shared Responsibility that Requires Innovative Solutions.”

CVS Health, a nationwide drugstore chain, made news in 2014 when it gave up its share of the multi-billion-dollar cigarette industry, ending sales of tobacco products it deemed counter to its mission of encouraging good health. In a move that can only be accepted as counter to its better business interests, it made a statement about its commitment to health, and claimed that a year later, in states where CVS had at least a 15% share of the pharmacy market, cigarette sales dropped by 1%, representing five fewer packs per smoker per year, or 95 million fewer packs overall. Whether CVS has a claim on a cause and effect relationship with this data, it’s a move that other national chains have not followed.

CVS didn’t stop there. It recently announced that beginning in February, it would limit prescriptions to opioid painkillers to seven-day supplies at a time when the average prescription is now 13 days. This self-imposed limit on sales is probably not in the retailer’s best financial interest, and will add to its efforts to educate customers, to increase access to naloxone (the overdose reversal medication), and to provide safe disposal of unused drugs.

These three examples of large businesses getting actively involved in what some are calling an epidemic are an admirable start, but they are only the start. As the nation shifts its attention toward the many levels of cultural and societal need, the underlying causes of this opioid crisis, other companies will (and likely already have) stepped in to work toward a solution to a problem belonging to us all.

Reference Links:
Leidos: https://insights.leidos.com/community/opioidepidemic
McKesson: http://www.mckesson.com/about-mckesson/who-we-are/
CVS Health: https://cvshealth.com/thought-leadership/cvs-health-enterprise-response-opioid-epidemic
National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-crisis


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Corporate Responsibility: Addressing The U.S. Opioid Crisis - Executive Leadership Articles

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