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SAS rallying analytics experts to fight the opioid epidemic
Thu, 30th May 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Analytics provider SAS has launched the SAS Opioid Analytics Users Group to unite data experts who want to help those on the front lines turn the tide of the opioid epidemic.

Led by an advisory board consisting of leaders from academia and the public and private sectors, the user group will share novel solutions with the health, government and technology communities to inform new policies and strategies.

SAS Medical Director Steve Kearney says, “The opioid epidemic has ignited urgent research efforts and new programs across the US.

“Many of these efforts involve applying analytics to the data behind the epidemic. We want to gather talented analytical minds and see what can be accomplished when we work together.

This group is one example of how analytics can be used to solve serious societal issues, not just within the US but globally.

The group will be guided by domain experts in both the opioid epidemic and analytics who will guide the group's activities to ensure the best practices, discoveries and methodologies created will be relevant and valuable to stakeholders.

All 50 state governments, all 15 executive federal departments and hundreds of counties and municipalities use SAS. SAS has also been a standard in colleges and universities for more than 40 years. With such a diverse membership, the user group will be able to look at many facets of a complex problem.

For instance, how to curb the alarming rise in illicit drugs such as fentanyl, which has surpassed prescription opioids as the leading cause of overdose deaths?

How to identify people at risk for substance use disorder? What's the best way to get them treatment, particularly those who live in rural areas? How can we identify systems of fraud or prescribers who stray well beyond CDC guidelines?

The SAS Opioid Analytics Users Group Advisory Board met for the first time at the recent National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

The board includes advocates, scientists, law enforcement and public health representatives from North Carolina, New Jersey, Colorado, the University of Kentucky and RTI International (a non-profit research institute), as well as Kearney and Christina Emrich, the SAS users group administrator.

It will be interesting to see how this effort progresses as the rest of the world watches, waiting to see if analytics and AI can truly power a better society.