Could Big Data Help Curb the Opioid Crisis?

May 1, 2018

Credit Jamie / Flickr

Can data solve the opioid crisis? One member of Congress from Virginia thinks it's worth a try.

Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is hoping big data can come to the rescue in a big way to prevent people from getting hooked on opioids. She has a bill known as the Better Pain Management Through Better Data Act. Essentially it would help collect more data about non-opioid alternatives, giving doctors and patients more information before the prescriptions are written. Comstock worked with Democrat Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico on the effort.

“I come from a blue-collar district with ironworkers and ranchers and a whole lot of jobs where wear and tear on the body is inevitable. It’s simply unrealistic to think we won’t have people who need access to this medication. But that’s where non-addictive therapies come in.”

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says Comstock may be acting out of self- preservation.

“There’s nothing like the pressure of a really competitive election a few months away to cause legislators to start caring about and trying to do things that are of concern to their constituents. And the opioid crisis is one of the big concerns of people across the country.”

Comstock’s bill cleared a House panel last week, one of 57 bills on opioid abuse to clear the Health Subcommittee.

*Editor's Note: After this story was published, Rep. Comstock's office vigorously disputed any implication from political analyst Quentin Kidd that the legislation has any political motivation.  In a phone call, Comstock said the opioid crisis "is not a partisan issue."  She also noted her previous involvement in speaking about and addressing the issue  both in Congress and in the Virginia General Assembly.  That context should have been included in the original story.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.