Researchers use black-market drug website to gauge public health


Anyone can visit StreetRx to learn about drug prices, and anyone can post information and rate the deals. Hundreds of people around the country contribute reports every day — voluntarily and anonymously.

Researchers are using StreetRx data to gauge the effectiveness of public policy, track changes in the market, and learn more about the people who obtain drugs this way, in the hope of helping them and deterring others. Law enforcement officials check the prices to inform officers buying undercover.

StreetRx is one of several projects by Epidemico, an informatics company established in 2007 by disease-trackers and data scientists from Children’s, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The website, which includes links to resources such as treatment programs and drug-disposal sites, receives 2,500 unique visitors each day and logs 4,000 to 5,000 drug-price reports per month.

StreetRx’s growing trove of data has caught the attention of public health researchers hungry for information about an otherwise inaccessible population.