January 16, 2013

Pill Heads and Technology Intertwine


On June 19, 2011, and on Father’s Day no less, David Laffer, a man who was not even halfway through his life at the age of 33, walked into a pharmacy in Medford, New York and opened fire. Wearing a fake beard, sunglasses and a hat, Laffer ended up shooting and killing four people, with the youngest victim being a mere 16-years-old, in an attempt to feed his prescription pill addiction. Ultimately sentenced to five consecutive life terms for the death of each of the innocent lives lost, this case was referred to by prosecutors as “the most cold-blooded robbery homicides in Suffolk Country history.”

Serving as an escape from real life, pills are being abused by countless people on a daily basis. And to get these drugs, they aren’t going to a bad part of town to meet up with a sketchy dealer in some back alley. Instead, they are simply driving to their nearest doctor and making up some reason behind their need for the medication, and after five minutes in most cases are walking away with a prescription in hand.  According to findings from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 2.5 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons for the first time within the past year. This number when broken down equates to approximately 6,600 misuses of the drug in only one day. Pretty astounding, huh?

What makes this drug abuse possible is that doctors all over the country are giving out scripts at record rates, some to make some quick cash and others as a way to just move on to the next appointment. To rectify this, we have turned to technology. CURES is a system that was developed with the goal of enabling physicians and pharmacists to check to see whether patients were obtaining drugs from multiple providers. It can also be leveraged by law enforcement to quickly see if a doctor is prescribing more prescription bills than average, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Image via Google

Just yesterday, January 15, The Daily News reported that OxyContin "bait bottles," which are actually containing GPS tracking devices, are being sent to New York city pharmacies as a way to assist police quickly uncover who is stealing them.

"In the event of a robbery or theft, we'll be able to track the bottle, which may lead us to stash locations across the city,'' said Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner. Kelly will be revealing related information a speech slated to take place at the 2013 Clinton Health Matters Conference in La Quinta, Calif. “We're also asking industry researchers to explore the possibility of applying nanotechnology in such a way that individual 'bait' tablets could be tracked by GPS."

The GPS-enabled bottles are only part of the project to combat the increasing abuse of pills that is currently being seen especially within the young adult age group. It also includes creating a database of almost 6,000 licensed pharmacists in and around New York City, which will enable police to help these stores improve their security in ways that include upgrading their alarm systems, keeping narcotics locked in a safe at all times, and even ensuring the store is lit as brightly as possible. 

Eric Romano, supervising pharmacist at Nate’s Pharmacy in Brooklyn, NY, told TechZone360 in an exclusive interview, “Any little bit is going to help in this fight against crimes related to pills. If someone is going to steal something and they know the GPS is on it, they might eventually try and take the pills out of the bottle but it will certainly serve as a deterrent for now at least.

While those who abuse prescription pills and quickly become addicted to them probably won’t just wake up and realize they need to stop cold turkey one day, technology-based innovations are certainly helping to curtail this epidemic as much as possible. Yet, doctors must and I repeat must take the first step in realizing what constitutes as a valid reason for being medicated in this fashion to stop this overuse before it is too late.




Edited by Rachel Ramsey



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