Crowdsourcing Black Market Prices For Prescription Opioids

Prescription opioid diversion and abuse are major public health issues in the United States and internationally. Street prices of diverted prescription opioids can provide an indicator of drug availability, demand, and abuse potential, but these data can be difficult to collect. Crowdsourcing is a rapid and cost-effective way to gather information about sales transactions. We sought to determine whether crowdsourcing can provide accurate measurements of the street price of diverted prescription opioid medications.

The object of this paper, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) was to assess the possibility of crowdsourcing black market drug price data by cross-validation with law enforcement officer reports.

Through StreetRx, we collected data about the price that site visitors paid for diverted prescription opioid analgesics during the first half of 2012. These results were compared with a survey of law enforcement officers in the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS) System, and actual transaction prices on a “dark Internet” marketplace (Silk Road).

We concluded that crowdsourced data (e.g., data collected through StreetRx) provide a valid estimate of the street price of diverted prescription opioids. The (ostensibly free) black market was able to accurately predict the relative pharmacologic potency of opioid molecules.