MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Studies were done by a West Virginia University professor and his colleague, that show an oversupply of opioids during the pandemic.

Dr. Ednilson Bernardes, professor and program coordinator of WVU’s Global Supply Chain Management, worked closely with a colleague to discover that misconduct becomes normal when institutional factors create “gray areas.” They found that the level of safe supply became a gray area as manufacturers and distributors aggressively marketed opioids as safe and effective. Dr. Bernardes mentioned that when this happens, buyers need to reconcile incompatible sets of norms: High throughput vs. ethical behavior.

In the studies, data was collected from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Census Bureau, and other sources. Combining this data together, they then performed an analysis to examine and test contextual and systemic factors that they theorized were impacting oversupply.

The DEA, manufacturers, and pharmacies all played a role in this oversupply during the pandemic, said the study. In this oversupply, pharmacies relaxed the oversight of quantities dispensed, while chains encouraged the filling of prescriptions. The DEA did not set a clearly defined safe supply, in which they repeatedly changed manufacturing levels over time, following requests of manufacturers.

The CDC says that overdose deaths have been occurring since the first wave of increased opioid prescriptions in the 1990s. Dr. Bernardes believes resolving the gray areas that enable oversupply and inequality need to target shared expectations at a systemic level. He also said, “We need to be more careful with systemwide behavior that is very destructible in the service of satisfying customer’s needs.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has filed and won several lawsuits against prescription drug and opioid companies for the distribution of opioids and pills under advertisements that did not properly explain the risks of the drugs.

In an interview with 12 News, Dr. Ednilson Bernardes was discussing what the state of West Virginia can do to help this problem. He said, “Punishing just one organization or another, will not solve the problem. We have to really change the perception, the shared perception. So, as a state, we need to address the system, the entire system, and not just look at individual factors that might be doing something wrong. We really have to change the entire perception and work in policies that affect the system.”

Relaying these studies and information can help give the state of West Virginia a better understanding of the problem and can open up more effective possibilities for correction. Not only do they show the systemic perception in their studies, but they also contributed knowledge to address other challenging problems such as: sustainability issues, labor exploration, overproduction in general, etc.

Overdose death tolls have been a reminder of the consequences of oversupplying of opioid prescriptions. This excessive production of these products encourages continued overconsumption.

We are living in a significant technological age that allows us to address previous problems and grand challenges within’ our society. These advances should play a helping hand in leaders addressing the problems and challenges responsibly. “As a result, more organizations and leaders are welcomed to join efforts to solve our pressing problems innovatively and effectively for the bottom line,” Dr. Bernardes added.

Dr. Bernardes and his colleague are planning a new study within’ the same line of area. They will be focusing on spillover effects, where they see opportunity in other areas, such as sustainability issues.

To read the full study, click here.