In this episode I speak with Yossuf Albanawi, co-founder of Opioid addiction solution, Pilleve. Yossuf is a graduate of Wake Forest University, he is a fellow at the Halcyon Incubator in Washington DC.
This conversation is about the Opioid crisis. This is such a huge problem in our society, and we need solutions faster than we are bringing them to market. While there are traditional resources available for people once they become addicted, there are no solutions on the market focused on preventing addiction effectively. That’s the focus of Pilleve – to prevent addiction to Opioids while still allowing doctors to prescribe these drugs, when necessary, with reduced risk of addiction.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE DISCUSSED:
- Yossuf shares his experience with addiction at an early age to prescription drugs. He talks about how his loved ones noticed very early on and sought the help of a professional to intervene. He gives a great example of how we can help our loved ones if we notice that they need help.
- What were some major parts of recovery for you? Yossuf explains that spirituality, and awareness were the two biggest components of his recovery from addiction.
- How did he learn about the scale of the Opioid Crisis? Yossuf took an entry level job after school at a rehab center. He did this to learn about what was being treated, why, and how. He found his purpose there. He explains how about 10 years ago most of the patients in treatment centers were there for alcohol. Then it flipped to be mostly Opioids in recent years.
- Can Opioid addiction be prevented? While working at a treatment center, Yossuf wondered about this. Why can’t we screen for this or treat this like other physical health problems? Is there a preventative measure we could put in place? Yes, but he had to build it. And he has. Pilleve.
The healthcare model in the United States is a fee for service model which means we typically treat people once they are sick or need treatment. Whether or not that’s a fair or good model is up for debate, but in this system, we have to look for innovation in order to “prevent” problems and that’s what Yossuf has done around the Opioid crisis.
Heroin addicts traditionally (60%+) begin with a prescription drug abuse. There is such a huge opportunity to identify this before it happens and then prevent the long-term cost on the person, on companies, on the economy, and on loved ones of that future addict’s problems (death, destruction, in-patient treatment, etc.).
- What is Pilleve? Pilleve is a smart, secure pill bottle that adapts into existing pharmacy and physician workflows. The Pilleve bottle and platform tracks, monitors and reports real-time use data to physicians allowing physicians to identify potential addictive behaviors very early. The Pilleve device makes it safer for doctors to prescribe Opioids to their patients.
- What is the high-level mission of Pilleve? The Company’s mission is to become the controlled drug standard for prescribing, dispensing and using controlled drugs.
Pilleve Focuses on Three Main Things:
Compliance – Making sure people don’t take too much of their medication. This is very different and needs to be distinctly differentiated from “adherence.” Adherence is the focus of most who have built solutions in the “prescription pill” market. Adherence means making sure people take the medications they should. We are focused on preventing people from taking too much. Is someone taking too much, or abusing the pills (this is the unique Pilleve focus).
Reduction – Focused on getting people “off” of the Opioid medication as soon as possible. This is an application of the data they gather on each patient while they use the medication.
Diversion – Get the excess pills back to the pharmacy once the patient has recovered. Today, many pills remain in the medicine cabinet for misuse at a later date, often by someone else in the household.
- Are there other smart pill bottles out there? There are a few smart pill bottle caps and such that are used for monitoring opening and closing by the patient. These are more focused on adherence, whereas Pilleve is focused on compliance (as described above). We are focused on taking too much, versus these other solutions, that are focused on whether you take the medication at all. These are very different behaviors, mindsets and use-cases.
- Should drugs be illegal? A favorite topic these days, we talk about how in some countries (Portugal and Netherlands) the legalization of drugs led to lower crime, lower addiction, and fewer people going to treatment centers. However, we also talk about how those countries have different dynamics than what exist in the U.S. (different people, different healthcare system, different culture, etc.) so you can’t look at them as a 1:1 comparison on whether or not certain drugs should even be illegal.
- How can we de-stigmatize addiction? This is a huge part of the solution. It’s our responsibility to make sure addicts get treatment. We must differentiate between addicts and criminals. If you are an addict, you are not a criminal (well not by default).
We find that when we share our experiences, others react by sharing theirs. The more this happens, the more stigma reduces and the easier it is to change this perception that an addict, is a criminal by default.