Robert Verscharen on the DisposeRx difference in the proper disposal of unused or unwanted prescription drugs ~
“the difference between those methods and DisposeRx is . . . that this destruction happens right in the vial, the same vial that the product was dispensed with. We have a way that we think is ecologically superior. Our product doesn’t leech into the water table. Our product is easier to use than any other method. But we’re not parochial about this. We want to support any method to get that product out of the medicine cabinet”
Brian Wilson: If asked to conjure up an image of a pharmacist most people would envision a friendly medical expert in a white lab coat answering questions about prescriptions. And while the drug stores of yesteryear may have been replaced in many areas by big chains, pharmacists themselves still hover near the top in the Gallup polling company’s list of the most honest and ethical of professionals. Bob Verscharen is the Executive Vice President of Commercial Development at DisposeRx. He’s also uniquely qualified to address the role of the pharmacist in the opioid crisis.
Robert Verscharen: I had retired after a 40-year career in the drugstore and pharmacy arena. And when John approached me about DisposeRx, and its exciting adventure, but mostly it’s really something that’s needed now in the public domain. There are addictions out there that are affecting families, that are causing life loss and tragedy. And I don’t want to see that continue to happen. So anything that I can do to help John to get the message out, and even reduce these tragedies by one, it’s certainly a major undertaking and well worth the reward.
Brian Wilson: Bob, your background is coming from a drugstore company. So what is the role of the pharmacist, in your mind, in this opioid crisis?
Role of Pharmacist in Opioid Crisis
Robert Verscharen: Well, the role of the pharmacist is primarily education. They have for many years fulfilled a portion of the responsibility to help control that crisis. And it’s even becoming larger every day. The pharmacist is the person that ultimately deals with the patient immediately prior to the patient taking that medication home. So when the physician communicates with the pharmacist that an opioid is appropriate, the pharmacist evaluates that prescription, determines that in fact it is a legitimate prescription, uses his knowledge to make sure that the dosage is appropriate for that patient, and that the physician’s directions are followed.
Consults with the patient about the importance of following the physician’s directions, and points out the things that that patient should know. For example, about a reaction that they might have to the medication. About an allergy that they have. Or about prescriptions that might not be appropriate to be used with an opioid product.
Make no mistakes, there is a place in American medicine for opioids. There are pains that opioids will relieve. In fact, they’re the most effective relief for many pains. It is when they are misused or overused, or ignored and left in medicine cabinets for any length of time inappropriately, that’s what starts to cause the new addictions. It also contributes to the diversion of drugs that end up in illicit places.
Brian Wilson: It would seem that the pharmacists could play a really potentially important role in educating about making sure that at the end of the cycle, when you get better, that the medicines are taken care of.
New Product Life Cycle – “ends when the patient either fully consumes or appropriately disposes the medication”
Robert Verscharen: Well, Brian, you’re right. What we call it, it’s a new product life cycle. Previously, a product was referred to … the life cycle of a product was referred to as initiating when the manufacturer or the researcher developed the product, got FDA approval for the product, marketed the product, communicated that is, to physicians about the product and how it could be used and should be used. Distributed through wholesalers and pharmacies. And then ultimately the pharmacy dispenses it to the patient.
And the previous school of thought was that the life cycle of that product ended. We’re saying in the new paradigm that it doesn’t end. It ends when the patient either fully consumes or appropriately disposes the medication. And DisposeRx is the vehicle for which that destruction is responsibly completed.
Announcer: You’re listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. More when we return.
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Brian Wilson: All right, so what are you doing to educate the pharmacists and get everybody on board?
Reaching Out to Pharmacists About DisposeRx
Robert Verscharen: Well, what we’re doing is we’re working with associations that have large numbers of pharmacist members. Two examples of that would be the wholesalers that support the independent pharmacies and their pharmacists. And we’ve got programs that we provide to the wholesalers, and they use those to communicate to pharmacists. And for the chain pharmacies that comprise over half of the drugstores now in the Country, we have programs for the individual chains.
Now each of the chains adapts our program to fit their specific capabilities and needs. But we’re standing there ready to support them in the endeavors to make sure that for all pharmacists, there’s some knowledge of a new way of disposing of products.
Brian, there’ve been other methods out there for the last several years in terms of either mailing back products, putting them in kiosks, or destroying them. However, the difference between those methods and DisposeRx is we’re recommending that this destruction happen right in the vial, the same vial that the product was dispensed with. We have a way that we think is ecologically superior. Our product doesn’t leech into the water table.
Our product is easier to use than any other method. But we’re not parochial about this. We want to support any method to get that product out of the medicine cabinet, get it away from the hands of people that might have a misadventure, as I call it, with a prescription product, and start down that path to addiction.
Brian Wilson: Tell me what drives your passion. Because I can tell you have a great passion for this idea.
Robert Verscharen: I do have a great passion. I think the whole team at DisposeRx has that passion. I’ve made my career in this industry for years. I’ve seen the tragedy that occurs. I have personal family and friends that have been touched by this. So it’s a chance to just take a stand and say I’m going to do my part, be it small, but I’m going to do my part to help to change the way the culture treats opioids and the life cycle of the opioids. So that it is not getting into the wrong hands and being used inappropriately.
Opioids are the most effective reliever of legitimate, severe pain. We don’t want to push that balance too far to eliminate patients that really need the medication from getting access. But it’s our position that by getting the appropriate use of medication, we’ll probably limit the desire of folks to move too far in the control of the product so that those that need it won’t suffer without relief. But it will not be available in the quantities it is now to be misused.
Brian Wilson: Bob, is there anything else you might add about pharmacists and their role in breaking this chain of abuse.
Pharmacists Role in Breaking the Chain of Opioid Abuse
Robert Verscharen: Over the past years and even decades in America, surveys have shown that the pharmacist is one of America’s most trusted professions. Always number one or two. It’s either pharmacists for several years, then it’s nurses, then it goes back to pharmacists. Why is that?
It’s because the pharmacist provides access to patients. Pharmacists don’t require appointments. You could go into a pharmacy whenever the pharmacy is open and get advice about over the counter and prescription remedies. Additionally, the convenience of pharmacies. One or more pharmacies is within three miles of over 90 percent of the American public.
And no one matches the knowledge about the general range of both over the counter and pharmaceuticals than does the pharmacist. I like to think of it almost like he’s the last warrior keeping the family safe by making sure that inappropriate opioids are not available. The warrior on the bridge protecting the public.
Brian Wilson: Thank you so much.
Robert Verscharen: Thank you.
Brian Wilson: While pharmacists are a key part of educating the public about this issue, there’s something you can do right now to take proper care of the unused or unwanted prescriptions in your medicine cabinet. Visit DisposeRx.com to learn how in just a few minutes you can responsibly dispose of your medications in a simple environmentally friendly way. That’s DisposeRx.com.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Opioids: Hidden Dangers, New Hope. Subscribe today where you get your podcast or visit opioids-hiddendangers-newhope.com for more information. This presentation is underwritten by DisposeRx.