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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A startup has developed a way to use AI to detect when doctors may be prescribing the wrong drug — or overprescribing opioids.

Why it matters: A system that could identify prescription mistakes before they happen could help save the thousands of Americans who die each year because of preventable medication errors, and it could contribute to controlling the opioid epidemic.

How it works: In much the same way that financial institutions use automated systems to catch outlier transactions that may signal fraud, MedAware's platform analyzes the prescription patterns of thousands of physicians to flag when a medication may be in conflict with the profile of the doctor, the patient or the medical institution.

  • Gidi Stein, MedAware's CEO and a practicing physician in Israel, was inspired to start the company after hearing the story of a 9-year-old boy who died because his doctor accidentally selected the wrong drug on an electronic prescribing pull-down menu.
  • "It wasn't bad judgment on the part of the physician — it was a typo," says Stein. "And you would have thought there was some kind of spellchecker to prevent this from happening."

By the numbers: Each year in the U.S. 7,000–9,000 people die due to a medication error of some kind, and the total cost of medication mistakes is more than $40 billion a year.

What to watch: Stein is particularly worried that the rapid adoption of telemedicine during the pandemic could open the door to more medication errors, as online doctors deal with patients they may know little about.

  • "This is going to be the next phase of health care and that's perfectly OK," he says. "But we need to provide doctors the right tools so patients can be protected."
  • With the opioid epidemic accelerating during the pandemic, Stein says platforms like MedAware can help doctors quickly identify patients who might be at a higher risk of abuse before they prescribe painkillers.

The bottom line: As in other fields, the sheer amount of health data is growing beyond the ability of humans to grasp alone, creating a need for automated systems that can save us from ourselves.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
30 mins ago - Economy & Business

The Fed could be firing up economic stimulus in disguise

Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard at a "Fed Listens" event. Photo: Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images.

Even as global growth expectations increase and governments pile on fiscal spending measures central bankers are quietly restarting recession-era bond-buying programs.

Driving the news: Comments Tuesday from Fed governor Lael Brainard suggest the Fed may be jumping onboard the global monetary policy rethink and restarting a program used following the 2008 global financial crisis.

Democrats' hypocrisy moment

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be facing explicit calls to resign from President Biden on down, if you apply the standard that Democrats set for similar allegations against Republicans. And it's not a close call.

Why it matters: The #MeToo moment saw men in power run out of town for exploiting young women. Democrats led the charge. So the silence of so many of them seems more strange — and unacceptable by their own standards — by the hour.

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say.