by Sam Zamarripa
When we launched our tad dispensing system in 2018, our primary intent was to provide tighter control over the use of opioids prescribed to manage the pain from injury or surgery.
However, great inventions can have multiple uses (just ask Thomas Edison), and we quickly found other settings that are ideal for tad—hospices, clinical trials, medication assisted therapy for those struggling to be free of opioid addiction.
Just recently, tad has been selected for another use: a federally funded study to eliminate hepatitis C.
Monitoring medication adherence
In June 2019, we signed a contract with the University of Kentucky to manage the dispensation of hepatitis C medications to 900 individuals in the $15 million study and to use our technology to track patient adherence to the prescribed drug regimen. The goal of the Kentucky Viral Hepatitis Treatment Study (KeY Treat) is to eliminate the hepatitis C virus (HCV) from Perry County in Kentucky’s Appalachian region by treating all residents of the county who are chronically infected, especially those at highest risk for transmitting the virus.
The program is funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition, the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences has donated the approximately $20 million of medications needed for the study.
Leaders of the study clearly see that tad is uniquely suited to population health intervention programs like theirs. In hepatitis C treatment, it is mission-critical that medications be taken properly to rid the body of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and tad is an ideal tool for making that happen.
Simply put, tad will increase the likelihood that the 900 individuals in the study will live.
Hepatitis C is serious business
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 3 million Americans are living with hepatitis C, and most do not feel ill or know they are infected. For many, infection can eventually lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer or death. More than 12,000 people die every year in the U.S. from illness related to hepatitis C—which kills more Americans than any other infectious disease.
The irony is that a cure exists for HCV infection. New medicines can rid the body of HCV in as little as two to three months, but getting the medication into the hands of the people who need it is not easy. Many can’t afford it, or, if they do have access to it, have difficulty staying on the required dosage regimen for a variety of reasons. Because many are drug users who live in poor communities stricken by the opioid epidemic, the temptation to divert the medication for the high price it can bring on the street is a strong one.
So, tad’s mechanism for controlling who has access to the drug and dispensing only the right dose at the right time to the right person is a good fit for Hepatitis C programs like KeY Treat. tad requires only the touch of a finger on the biometric keypad to dispense the correct dosage. It also reports to physicians, therapists and caregivers any attempts to abuse, misuse or divert the drugs from their intended use.
Staying true to our roots
Because HCV infection is prevalent in people who are addicted to opioids, projects like the one in Kentucky fall well within our company’s original mission to provide a solution to the opioid crisis.
That mission found its instrument with Intent Solutions’ invention of tad for controlling how opioids are dispensed by pharmacists and preventing people from becoming addicted in the first place. But now we see we can battle addiction on a new front—helping people stricken with an infection that is a highly probable consequence of opioid addiction.
It is gratifying for us to be making inroads in this new area, to see how tad can help solve these new challenges. We are proud to be part of the University of Kentucky program and will keep you posted on the results.