The extent of the Opioid overuse in the US – and what the UT Southwestern Medical Center is doing about it

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the misuse of and addiction to opioids, including prescription pain relivers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. Hospitals now see the need for safety and are starting to implement drug diversion programs devices, such as the WasteLog® system.

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. Opioid overdose began to increase. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died because of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relivers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is around $78.5 billion a year, including costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Drug diversion affects both the hospital's finances and the safety of their staff

Drug losses and theft from the healthcare system are accelerating, hospitals are pressured to implement safeguards to prevent drug diversion. Past incidents of hospital drug diversion have impacted patient and staff safety and increased hospital costs. Hospitals see the need for safety and are starting to implement drug diversion programs that consist of having the much-needed tools to combat this opioid crisis. Some of those tools consist of drug diversion software or waste screening devices such as the Pharmacolog’s WasteLog® system.

New collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center
At the International Health Facility Diversion Association Annual Conference in 2019, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center approached Pharmacolog for a discussion on future collaboration. From that point, demos and discussions about WasteLog® began between the two parties. After looking at Pharmacolog’s competition in December 2020, UT Southwestern Medical Center signed a contract for four WasteLog® units.

Jeffrey Marton, Director of Sales North America at Pharmacolog, is involved in the project and believes that it can lead to future studies in the drug diversion field.

– I think what makes this project unique is you can really see the excitement from UT Southwestern about WasteLog®. UT Southwestern had been looking at all available units on the market. With WasteLog® being a sole source product that can test for low levels of concentrations and has a high robust accuracy rate, UT Southwestern was looking for a device that had these features. UT Southwestern now has a powerful system to help combat drug diversion through WasteLog’s® technology, portability, and cost effectiveness. Not only will they use the devices to screen waste but with the data and analytics portion,they plan on taking those results and doing future paper studies.

Furthermore, Jeff claims that the Covid pandemic has affected the project and led to several challenges, but that creative solutions have made the project possible to complete.

– COVID-19 has affected this project in certain ways. UT Southwestern has been great to work with though and understanding during these challenging times we are facing. We were also able to do a remote install which allowed us to train and install the devices without being at the location. Normally we are onsite during this process. Since things have been strict during the pandemic for vendors in hospitals the remote install was welcomed by UT Southwestern.


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Photo: Alex & Martin

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