How Medication Waste Became The Rallying Cry — And Inspiration — For Nanodropper
The hallmark of any great piece of investigative journalism is, like any good marketing campaign, simply a call to action. For investigative reporter Marshall Allen, he’s made a career out of creating actionable news stories centered around the issue of medication waste. He’s even written a book about how to fight back against the healthcare system. His work highlighting medication waste directly inspired the creation of Nanodropper.
“I’m always quite curious to see how people respond to my stories — whether positive or negative,” Marshall said. “I know how hard it is for people to even sit down and read a story, so any reaction at all at least shows I got their attention.”
An Oct. 2017 article that Allen wrote for ProPublica titled “Drug Companies Make Eyedrops Too Big — And You Pay for the Waste” is littered with sentences meant to rile readers into realizing the injustices of medication waste — since the cost of that waste almost always gets transferred to the patient.
Medication Waste, Staring You in The Eye
“Eyedrops overflow our eyes because drug companies make the typical drop — from pricey glaucoma drugs to a cheap bottle of Visine — larger than a human eye can hold. Some are so large that if they were pills, every time you swallowed one, you’d toss another in the garbage.”
“I kept coming back to the question of, how do I bypass the whole mess? There had to be a better solution,” Allisa said. “It had to be an aftermarket part, giving the power back to the patient. The patient’s ability to weigh their options and choose in healthcare has been stripped. I wanted to change that.
After reading Marshall’s article, Allisa envisioned a patient-centered solution to eyedrop waste — it was the seed that grew into the idea for the Nanodropper adaptor. It twists onto eyedrop bottles and reduces the size of drops to only what the eye can hold. The invention is being used in eyecare clinics across the country and in the hands of thousands of patients. Glaucoma patients who are paying out of pocket are saving hundreds of dollars per year, and multiple months of medication, simply by twisting the Nanodropper adaptor onto their bottles.
“The creation of the Nanodropper is certainly one of the most satisfying reactions I’ve ever had to one of my stories,” Marshall said. “I often highlight problems, but I don’t have the power to fix the issues I identified. So it really was incredible to see this group of bright young professionals come up with a fix that can truly help the public.”
The Stakes Are High
“Crucial eye medications to treat conditions like glaucoma may cost hundreds of dollars for a small bottle that only lasts a month, making the waste of even a drop a problem for low-income patients.”
Marshall was candid about sharing the reaction of pharmaceutical companies after his eyedrop waste article was published.
“I have not seen the pharma companies make any changes as a result of that story. The industry’s aim is typically on making money for itself, not making things more affordable for patients.”
Marshall’s award-winning investigative work spanning the last 15 years has been featured by NPR, ProPublica, The New York Times, CNN, The Today Show, and many other national news outlets. All of his work has culminated with the publication of “Never Pay The First Bill — And Other Ways To Fight The Health Care System And Win” — a book designed to “equip families and employers with the knowledge, strategy and how-to tactics they need to fight back and win.” The book will be available on June 22, 2021, and its mission rings near and dear to the Nanodropper team — to help readers take back control of their health care.
“I have a lot of optimism about the power of consumers and employers to push back against the abuses of the healthcare industry,” Marshall said. “The book explains the various ways the system has been exploiting our sickness for its profit, and what we can do about it. I’m hopeful because consumers have a lot of power — they just have to know how to use it and start standing up for themselves.”
The book is a testament to his innovative approach to his stories.
“Contributing to the solution is at the forefront of my mind when I do my investigative reporting. I am exposing problems, but often pointing to solutions, as well. Sometimes people need to be informed of a problem so they can come up with a solution, like in the case of Nanodropper.”
Fighting Back With a Solution
“Those in the eye industry — doctors, pharmaceutical officials, researchers — know that eyedrops are much larger than the eye can hold.”
“But there’s little focus on the waste.”
“Even a drug industry consultant, Gary Novack, said it would be ideal to have a smaller drop with a higher concentration of medicine. But Novack, a pharmacology expert who helps companies shepherd products to market, does not believe reducing the size of drops would lower health care costs. The drug companies, he said, would “acclimate,” raising prices by charging by dose instead of volume.”
Dr. Alan Robin, a retired ophthalmologist and world-renowned glaucoma specialist, knows all too well about the effectiveness of microdrops — drops that are closer to the amount of liquid the eye can absorb — and the pharmaceutical industry’s lack of desire to create less wasteful solutions for patients.
Dr. Robin spoke with Allen for his ProPublica story and discussed how drug companies had “no interest in people, their pocketbooks or what the cost of drugs meant.” Dr. Robin, a founding member of the American Glaucoma Society, has published research spanning decades that demonstrate the effectiveness of microdrops. He also has decades of experience learning how little appetite drug companies have to absorb the profit loss of reducing medication waste.
That’s why the Nanodropper team reached out to Dr. Robin in 2020 and told him about our patient-centered solution to the issue of eyedrop medication waste. His reaction after testing out the Nanodropper adaptor thrilled the team, and validated years of work, time, and money that ultimately brought the device to market.
“Two of the greatest obstacles to adherence are both price and convenience. The Nanodropper adaptor has the potential to minimize both of these impediments,” Dr. Robin said. “Most commercial drops have a volume between 30 and 50 microliters. By reducing the volume per drop to 10 microliters, the effect of each drop should be the same, yet a bottle would last approximately 3 to 5 times longer. This would not only make medication last longer, obviating the need for frequent visits to pharmacies, but also significantly reduce medication burden on individuals with fixed incomes.”
To learn more about Marshall Allen’s journalism or to order his book, visit his website at this link.
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