Entrepreneur discusses how his business is combating the opioid crisis.
BY JON CRONIN
Prescription opioids have become an increasing problem in the United States during the past few years. The Centers for Disease Control reported that, in 2015, there were 62 deaths per day related to opioid overdoses.
A Long Island entrepreneur, Jon Steinberg, Esq., has created a business that educates doctors in how to genetically and metabolically measure a person’s ability to process opioids.
Steinberg—the founder of PremierDNA, which is based in Lake Success—said that the most effective way to combat the opioid crisis is to prevent addiction. Steinberg’s company, which he started four years ago after selling his pharmacy business, tests patients and educates others in how to test them genetically to see how susceptible they are to addiction and metabolically to see how their bodies will absorb certain drugs.
“I believe this will become the standard of care,” he said.
As an example of metabolizing drugs, Steinberg pointed to a heart medication known as Plavix, which he said that 20 to 30 percent of the population cannot metabolize. Steinberg added that Plavix is currently prescribed in a “trial and error” approach, during which heart health is monitored. He noted that with genetic and metabolic testing, this trial-and-error method could potentially be eliminated.
After Steinberg sold his pharmacy business, he began studying Obamacare and healthcare reform, and realized that this type of care was where medicine was headed.
“I saw first hand what opioids do to people,” Steinberg said of his pharmacy business.
Steinberg said that while he was running a pharmacy, he met doctors from across the nation and later connected with an associate in politics, who connected him with various governors who were interested in PremierDNA’s programs.
He was told that many state legislature meetings around the nation frequently have the opioid crisis on agendas, and that the federal government distributes funding, but those legislatures are frequently unaware of how to effectively utilize that money. Steinberg believes that his programs can provide an effective solution.
“We want to get the word out. The governors are extremely interested in learning about the program,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, opioids—including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl—killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, which was more than any other year on record. The CDC also stated that 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
Steinberg had wanted to start a pilot program in New Jersey that would have focused on how to metabolically and genetically treat pregnant addicts, but the state attorney general’s office said that due to certain state and federal regulations, he could not do so unless he was part of the state’s Medicaid system. He is currently taking steps to be part of the New Jersey Medicaid system.
“I just wanted to create a company that would go out and help people,” he said, adding that while he created the company, he realized that he would need to build a network of labs across the country in order to designate it as a genetic-testing company.
“I needed to build equity in a lab; otherwise it’s just marketing.”
PremierDNA is currently working with researchers, physicians, hospitals and medical schools. Steinberg said that the company is talking to patients and medical care facility administrators about what the program can do.
He explained that hospitals and patients will save money with this kind of testing. For example, Steinberg noted that if someone is coming out of a joint-replacement surgery, the doctor can take a saliva swab, check out the patient’s genomic make-up and properly prescribe the correct dosage of pain-relieving medication.
“The body is a living information system,” he said. “You can look at the urine, the blood and the genes [and then] look at the socioeconomic and dietary needs. No one has ever put this all under one roof.”
Steinberg said that some hospitals believe they can reduce in-hospital stays from 3.1 days to two days and decrease readmissions. He pointed out that Howard University in Washington, D.C., “has reduced its recidivism rate from 75 to 25 percent by implementing our program.”
“We want to make a difference in people’s lives. This is part of the solution. It’s not the be-all and end-all. I’m not kidding myself,” Steinberg said.
He added that most laboratories are driven by revenue and earn profits through testing, but noted that many people cannot afford to pay for numerous tests. The PremierDNA program will secure authorization through insurance companies before tests are ordered, so that there are no surprise bills.
“The real focus is putting a dent in the opioid epidemic in a positive way,” Steinberg said.
On March 1, President Donald Trump announced that he supported U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ idea to sue major drug companies as a means of recouping money that the federal government has spent on fighting opioid addiction.
Reuters reported that many states, counties and cities have previously sued these companies. Some lawsuits stated that manufacturers were deceptive in the marketing of opioid products and did not take part in the solution when their products were used illegally.
“I don’t believe that would help the opioid epidemic,” Steinberg said of Sessions’ proposal. “There is too much power at the pharmaceutical level. How’s that going to help what’s already been done [to the addicts]?
It’s a chronic illness. It’s not all about dollars and cents. Part of the answer is putting a plan in place that looks at the individual. Personalized precision medicine as a way of treating the addict is the future.”
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.