New technology may stem the tide of opioid abuse

Opioid abuse is reaching levels so alarming that United States authorities have declared it a national public health emergency. Drug Diversion – the illegal distribution and use of prescription drugs in the healthcare chain – is one factor that contributes to this growing epidemic. Illicit use of controlled substances is not only a major health risk for the abuser, but also a patient safety issue. The theft of intravenous analgesics used in surgery is one clear example of the hazards that drug diversion poses. But hope is at hand. New technology to combat the problem already exists!

It’s interesting to note, however, that this is not a new dilemma. Ten years ago, a report by the Prescription for Peril Insurance fraud finances theft and abuse established the illicit use of prescribed drugs as one of ‘the defining drug crimes’ in contemporary America. A more recent article in Newsweek by Kurt Eichenwald (2015) states that 100,000 US healthcare workers are addicts!

60 percent more deaths in just one year
Today, the United States Health and Health Services Agency is warning that the nation is being ravaged by an unprecedented tidal wave of opioid abuse. More people now die from overdoses than ever before. In 2015, 33,000 lives were lost to opioids. In 2016, the corresponding figure was 53,000, an increase of 60 percent in one year! (Source: cdc.gov, hhs.gov, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Council on foreign relations and others).

“At the moment, US authorities are prioritizing efforts to reduce the abuse of opioids throughout the country. This puts greater pressure on health institutions to prevent Drug Diversion”, says Mats Högberg, CEO, Pharmacolog.

What’s more, although these examples are taken from US reports, drug diversion is truly a global problem.

To halt opioid misuse, drug diversion must also be stopped
Minimizing drug diversion is crucial for halting the opioid epidemic. And one cornerstone in achieving this goal is to use new med tech that already exists!

“When surgery is over, normal hospital policy is to send all unused substances back to the pharmacy. But untoward things sometimes happen on the way. Products can go missing. Fortunately, a number of med tech instruments are now available to help alleviate such

problems. A quick test of sample composition and concentration will show whether or not a controlled substance has been tampered with, for example. Simply the knowledge that returned substances are checked in this manner is known to reduce overall drug diversion”, concludes Mats Högberg.
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