Critical lessons every business can learn from the opioid crisis

  • Parth Patel
An important eye-opener for all businesses on how to improve their processes
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The U.S. opioid crisis is a disaster that was several decades in the making. Yet, just like most problems, the premise it started on was small. Until the 1980s, doctors were hesitant to prescribe opioids for non-surgery or non-cancer related chronic pain issues. A single letter disputing this premise in the New England Journal of Medicine sparked a conversation on how opioids could give patients better relief without any fear of addiction. A series of studies and research papers similarly supported the claim of lack of substance abuse or psychological dependence. Once OxyContin received the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approval in 1995, aggressive marketing budgets pushed the prescriptions from 670,000 to 6.2 million between 1997 and 2002. The passing years have got us to the stage where nearly 62 million patients had at least 1 opioid prescription in 2016.

While the case was played out in courts and blame was assigned to the responsible parties, people around the USA are left with dealing with the mammoth after-effects of these disastrous practices.

As with every life-lesson, this opioid crisis can be an important eye-opener for all businesses on how they can improve their processes.

Put your customer first:

Several post-analysis studies on the Oxycontin marketing strategies showed that the company spent around $200 million in 2001 to promote the use of opioids and further resorted to fraudulent marketing where they reiterated their claim of non-addiction even with increased dosages to the medicines. 

This practice should not be promoted in any organization. It is very important to put the customer first and ensure that you are offering them services/products that they can really use. Any fake claims will only lead to customer dissatisfaction in the long run.

Be transparent:

Another cause of concern in the way Purdue Pharmaceuticals handled their sales was in their consistent claims that the risk of addiction was less than one percent. This misrepresentation ultimately led to the company executives pleading guilty to criminal charges and paying $634 million in fines. 

This misrepresentation ultimately led to the company executives pleading guilty to criminal charges and paying $634 million in fines. 

It is therefore essential for companies to provide clear guidelines on their processes. For e.g. – a clearly defined returns or claims process will ensure that customers are well-informed before they take the decision to buy the product. And in case they need to return, they are aware of their rights and procedure that will be followed. Such transparency will boost customer satisfaction and in turn an increase in sales through referrals.

Every business should always be vigilant and conduct its due diligence studies on a regular basis to catch any potential pitfalls that could affect their success.

  • Parth Patel
  • CEO
  • Six Consulting, Inc.
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Track the right metrics:

Till the problem of opioid addiction became evident, patient satisfaction surveys help inform value-based reimbursements for hospitals. Studies did find that opioid users were 32 percent more likely to report higher customer satisfaction. Finally, in 2016, CMS has rolled out a Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System read more

Track the right metrics:

Till the problem of opioid addiction became evident, patient satisfaction surveys help inform value-based reimbursements for hospitals. Studies did find that opioid users were 32 percent more likely to report higher customer satisfaction. Finally, in 2016, CMS has rolled out a Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and removed pain management and opioid prescribing questions from the reimbursement formula.

This should act as a wake-up call to companies to define the right metrics to measure their growth. Failure to do so could result in unrealistic results that could derail the company’s growth plans in the long run. 

Set realistic and achievable sales targets

In the case of Oxycontin, the sales representatives were pushing higher dosages when the prescribed ones didn’t get the desired results. This led to higher sales revenue and Purdue’s financial position also improved drastically. However, as we know now, this has led to an increase in overdose deaths as well as addiction rates.

Every business should therefore work to set realistic sales targets that do not conflict with the general interest of their customers. Another way to incentivize this is to tie in sales targets with overall development of the client’s business.

 In conclusion, a business should always be vigilant and conduct its due diligence studies on a regular basis to catch any potential pitfalls that could affect their success.