David Reeser moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, a beach town that he describes as “paradise,” in 2016 with his family. But a report came out around that time suggesting it was far from paradise for many of Reeser’s neighbors.
Upwards of 11.6% of Wilmington residents were abusing opioids, the highest percentage of any city in the US.
“I got really curious,” Reeser told Hypepotamus. “How are so many people in this beautiful city suffering? Why is this happening?”
That question turned into a community-wide conversation. Reeser started holding monthly meetings at the city’s co-working space TekMountain to bring together those in recovery, clinicians, police officers, judges, and others around impacted the local opioid epidemic.
Reeser said it is “going to take a multitude of people and solutions” to make an impact.
“The opposite of addiction is community. Addiction is the loneliest chronic disease of the brain,” Reeser added. “People suffer in isolation. I don’t want to see that anymore.”
There are multiple factors behind the rise of the American opioid crisis. But Reeser realized that while the country has close to 16,000 outpatient and MOUD (Medications for opioid use disorder) treatment centers, their success rate is painfully low. Just 1 in 3 people stay in treatment long enough to make an impact.
To improve these outcomes, Reeser and his team launched OpiAID as a HealthTech and data science platform designed specifically for MOUD programs.
Behind OpiAID’s Technology Platform
OpiAID integrates into the health records of clinics that provide treatment and medication for opioid use disorder. By partnering with these clinics, OpiAID works as a “clinical decision support tool” and brings siloed data into one dashboard. This is important since clinicians cannot track someone at all times but they do need to see how recovery efforts are going in between appointments.
The Wilmington-based startup looks to provide “timely and actionable data that can help prevent a relapse and allow for just-in-time interventions that can save a life,” Reeser told Hypepotamus. This is critical because it “improves retention and treatment, which leads to better clinical outcomes, increases revenue for the clinics, and reduces costs to payers.”
The opioid epidemic is, of course, not just isolated to coastal North Carolina. In the last 12 months, millions of Americans abused an opioid, with the vast majority of those people never seeking any sort of treatment. 107,000 deaths from opioid overdoses reported in the United States the last year alone.
The platform has expanded over the last several years, but more growth could be on the horizon. OpiAID just won a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to work on adding biometric insights into the platform.
This could help make OpiAID more commercially viable and integrate with common consumer gadgets.
“[The grant money] will go towards refining our algorithms and allow us to prove across multiple commercially available, over-the-counter devices – like Fitbit, WHOOP, Samsung Watch and Apple Watch – that we can do the same level of prediction with very inexpensive devices that people already have,” he said. “That decreases the number of barriers to treatment and reduces any chance of stigma because nobody would know you’re wearing an Apple Watch to help monitor your recovery.”
The goal, Reeser added, is to get OpiAID approved as a “software-as-a-medical device” that makes treatment for substance use disorder safer and more effective.
Another positive sign of OpiAID’s growth? The team has built out multiple partnerships with telehealth companies to license their technology over the last several months, meaning that the platform could “reach millions of patients” in a remote environment, Reeser added.
What’s On The Horizon
Heading into summer 2023, OpiAID will be launching another clinical trial in Wilmington to improve its algorithm and grow its biometric work. The team also has several pilot programs launching across different states in the coming months.
The team is also in the middle of a convertible note raise, which Reeser said will go towards “building the team and accelerating the product roadmap.” Larger funding rounds are also on the horizon, he added.