On April 20, the founder of evolve24, Tony Sardella, will be honored by Washington University’s Olin Business School for his work in developing a novel algorithm that could help federal law enforcement investigators turn the tide in our nation’s opioid epidemic.
Sardella, an Adjunct Lecturer and Senior Research Advisor at the University’s Center for Analytics and Business Insights (CABI), was part of a small team of University researchers who spent more than a year studying the data of U.S. pharmaceutical suppliers, pharmacies, and doctors to better understand how controlled substances are prescribed, distributed, and diverted for illegal trafficking purposes. Sardella and his co-authors co-authored the academic paper, “Nip it in the Bud! Managing the Opioid Crisis: Supply Chain Response to Anomalous Buyer Behavior.” In the paper, the research team outlined a methodology they designed to enable law enforcement agencies to accurately anticipate suspicious transactions across 100 different highly addictive prescription pharmaceuticals. Using historical data collected from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) database between 2006-2012, the research team developed an algorithm to flag and stop fraudulent opioid shipments before they are diverted. The algorithm flagged patterns the research team identified among likely diverters. When tested against a known database of convicted buyers, the algorithm was proven to be 100% accurate in detecting shipments marked for diversion.
Sardella and the WashU Olin Brookings Commission demonstrated how taking their algorithm and productizing it into a capability could help investigators prevent prescription drug diversion.
The academic paper earned the team the prestigious 2023 Olin Award, which recognizes the most impactful scholarly research produced by Olin Business School faculty.
The research team’s findings have also garnered national interest, resulting in a year-long study by a panel under the Olin Brookings Commission. The panel, which Sardella chaired, presented their findings in early 2022 on how AI-driven tools could be used to curb the misdirection of opioid shipments before an audience of policymakers, journalists, scientists, and healthcare professionals. The panel also outlined their policy recommendations designed to facilitate the use of these advanced AI toolsets.
Today, evolve24 is using the findings of Sardella and his research colleagues to develop next-generation AI tools to help federal law enforcement agents detect, intercept, and deter illegal prescription drug trafficking operations in real time.