Center for Opioid Epidemiology & Policy | NYU Langone Health

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Division of Epidemiology Center for Opioid Epidemiology & Policy

Center for Opioid Epidemiology & Policy

The Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy at NYU Langone launched in 2018 to serve as a central source of research on the United States’ rapidly shifting opioid overdose epidemic. Opioid overdoses now claim more lives per year than HIV/AIDS did at the height of that epidemic; 1 in 65 deaths in the United States were opioid related in 2016. It’s not just about fatal overdose. An unknown but large number of people suffer from chronic opioid abuse and nonfatal overdose, which has devastating individual and societal consequences.

Our current research focuses on improving surveillance of opioid morbidity and mortality. We also work to evaluate the impact state policies and laws regulating the drug supply, access to naloxone, and access to treatment have on opioid overdose.

The center is comprised of a multidisciplinary team working to develop sound scientific evidence on the nature, causes, and consequences of the opioid overdose epidemic. All of our projects are aimed at informing evidence-based policies to prevent opioid misuse, disorder, and overdose in populations across the United States and globally. We hope to expand these efforts through training and education in opioid epidemiology and public policy.

Dr. Magdalena Cerdá explains that one of the newly launched center’s goals is to train the next generation of researchers so they can effectively address future overdose epidemics.

Our Areas of Focus

The center has four planned areas of focus in our efforts to reduce the impact of the opioid overdose crisis:

  • building a central repository of data on state and municipal policies and health outcomes associated with opioid misuse
  • leveraging data and machine learning approaches to track the evolution of the opioid epidemic and predict future hotspots of opioid overdose
  • evaluating the impact that specific drug policies and other social determinants have on opioid misuse
  • examining the impact of community-level spikes in opioid misuse on the health of local populations

These four areas of focus will continue to be refined as the center grows in size and scope of work.

Center Leadership

The center is led by Magdalena Cerdá, DrPH, MPH, associate professor of population health at NYU School of Medicine. Her work integrates approaches from social and psychiatric epidemiology to examine how social contexts shape violent behavior, substance use, and common forms of mental illness. Dr. Cerdá’s experience extends to the epidemiology and policy determinants of opioid misuse and overdose, including National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funding to examine the impact that different types of prescription drug monitoring programs have on opioid-related harm. Before joining NYU Langone, Dr. Cerdá served as the Vice Chancellor’s Endowed Chair on Violence Prevention at the University of California, Davis, and on the faculty of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She received her DrPH from Harvard University, MPH from Yale University, and undergraduate degree from Cornell University.

Center News

Recent research from Dr. Cerdá and her team of investigators published in JAMA Network Open shows that increased marketing of opioid products to physicians—from consulting fees to free meals—is associated with higher opioid prescribing rates and elevated overdose deaths in the United States. Findings suggest an urgent need to examine the role that the pharmaceutical industry plays in the national opioid crisis.

The researchers determined that $39.7 million in opioid marketing was distributed to almost 68,000 physicians in 2,208 U.S. counties. Direct-to-physician marketing includes a pharmaceutical company paying for physicians’ meals, travel costs, speaking fees, honoraria, or consulting fees. Counties that received more industry marketing saw an increase in opioid prescribing—and experienced higher numbers of opioid overdose deaths. The researchers also found that the number of marketing interactions with physicians was more strongly associated with overdose deaths than the amount spent. In fact, for every three additional payments made to physicians per 100,000 people in a county, opioid overdose deaths were 18 percent higher. Results suggest that the greatest influence of pharmaceutical companies may be subtler and more widespread—such as payments of low monetary value occurring on a very large scale.

The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Kaiser Health News provide additional coverage of the study.

Contact Us

For all inquiries, please contact Caroline Barnes, MPH, senior program manager, at caroline.barnes@nyulangone.org or 646-501-2529.