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Entrepreneur's efforts on prescription addiction include medical school partnership

September 18, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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South Florida-based entrepreneur Joe Randazza has sensed numerous problems with traditional fundraising and advocacy campaigns for addiction recovery. The public sometimes fails to see the faces of a campaign as meriting their support. Disappointing rates of long-term successful outcome lead others to question the value of conventional treatment approaches.

As a result, the prevention, education and treatment efforts that are in the works from Randazza's foundation2recovery.org will take a somewhat different tack. Moviegoers across the country will be introduced to the organization this fall, as a public service announcement (PSA) focusing on the plight of adolescents begins to air in theaters. A newly announced partnership with Florida Atlantic University's Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine will fuel inquiry into effective opiate-blocking medications to combat prescription drug addiction, including potentially superior formulations of existing drugs (think “implantables,” Randazza indicates).

Another noteworthy aspect of the involvement of Randazza, a venture capitalist who over the years developed technologies in areas such as “smart pay” systems for service stations, is that he has no personal or family ties to the experiences of addiction and recovery. However, he says, “I have seen how it affects employers trying to find qualified people, and how it tears families up.”

Randazza, who already has put $300,000 of his own money into the nonprofit foundation2recovery.org venture (for which he formally serves as managing director) and says he is willing to contribute more toward the success of the initiative, believes he can use an offer of free home drug testing kits to convince families to learn more about prescription drug addiction (prescription opioids are the sole focus of his effort), and ultimately to donate to the organization.

“We're trying to raise $2.5 million this year, through the effort in the movie theaters,” Randazza says. Geraldo Rivera narrates the 60-second PSA.

Partnership with school

“As physicians, we look forward to working with foundation2recovery to help them identify, assess and support highly effective approaches, both existing and novel, to address prescription opiate addiction,” neuroscientist and FAU medical school executive vice dean John W. Newcomer, MD, said in a news release distributed this month.

Randazza says the partnership between the two entities will have several components. A comprehensive resource guide will be created to give family members needed information about prescription opioids, he says. A 24-hour hotline will be launched. The university will help the nonprofit create a national advisory board of medical, scientific and business leaders to promote development of novel approaches to combating the opioid crisis. The entities will develop research protocols and will recruit accredited treatment facilities to test various forms of medication-assisted treatment, he says.

“We're trying to increase success rates,” Randazza says. “We're not supporting any one [drug] manufacturer.”

Randazza, 60, also remains a partner in the firm Z9 Capital, but says there is no link between his work in business incubator activity at that company and the efforts of the nonprofit. He credits meeting Molly McGee, a young woman who was able to break from the shackles of prescription drug addiction because her family had the financial means to send her to treatment, with inspiring the founding of an organization that he hopes eventually will help a wide swath of the opioid-affected population.

The nonprofit has been in existence for a few years, but Randazza admits it has taken a while to identify a work plan with potential. Stigma and reports of high treatment failure rates in the industry often cause hesitation among those who have the capacity to donate.

He himself bristles at several realities in the field, including that the proliferation of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in states still hasn't led to fully effective real-time detection of doctor-shopping patterns.

“If someone asked me simply to contribute money,” to existing entities in the field, Randazza says, “I probably wouldn't do it.”

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