Despite High Northeast Pollen Levels, Big Data Calculations Helped the Northeast Survive Spring Allergy Season

Flu allergy. Sick girl sneezing in tissue. Health

Predicting the severity of the spring allergy season each year is no easy feat; between calculating possible pollen levels to estimating how much allergy medicine will be consumed by adult (and pediatric) consumers, it’s not uncommon for researchers to make inaccurate predictions.

In 2010, for example, the Northeast region of the U.S. went through an allergy medicine shortage. According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, several pharmaceutical companies struggled to produce enough allergy medicine for residents during April and May (typically the two months with the highest pollen levels in the Northeast).

Several pharmacies — mostly chain stores like CVS or Walgreens — ending up selling out of over-the-counter allergy meds and antihistamines very early into the spring season.

This year, according to data from IMS Health Inc., spring pollen levels in the Northeast have been about 25% higher during April and May than in other months — causing many pharmacies and drug manufacturers (and even a few consumers) to worry that pharmacies might run out of allergy medicine again, should the pollen levels stay high.

But according to the WSJ report, vendors (like local pharmacies) have begun using big data to work closely with drug manufacturers and ensure that a shortage doesn’t happen again; the incorporation of new technology, along with newer and faster communication lines between businesses, is likely the reason why a shortage hasn’t occurred again this year.

Companies in various industries already use high-tech avenues for calculating big data; around 59% of businesses today already manage big data using cloud-based services, allowing them to communicate efficiently and instantly with their partners, vendors, and clients.

A company based in Virginia called Orchestro is doing just that — but what makes Orchestro stand out from the rest of the crowd is that the company has been able to crunch endless lists of numbers; everything from global warming information to sales of allergy medicine in previous years is factored into the equation when Orchestro’s analysts are predicting how much allergy medicine manufacturers create.

Using real-time data on temperature changes and pollen levels, Orchestro can alert pharmacies and manufacturers to a potential increase (or decrease) in allergy medicine demand before consumers go to the store to buy it.

The model has already proved to be effective, although some businesses are hesitant to put in the six to nine months of prep work that Orchestro’s analysts spent before spring allergy season hit.

Nevertheless, it’s likely that consumers will be seeing plenty of stocked shelves in the future — and not just where allergy medicine is concerned.

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