How one local company aims to help in the opioid crisis

How one local company aims to help in the opioid crisis
Director of Development for the city of Vista Kevin Ham, RxSafe President and CEO William Holmes and Brian Kichler, EVP operations and pharmacy analytics for RxSafe. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene

VISTA — Pharmacy robberies continue to surge because of the opioid crisis. In California alone, the Federal Drug Force Administration revealed the drug store robberies in the past two years have increased 163 percent.

One local company found a solution to not only have accuracy and speed in filling 120 prescriptions per hour, but is also offering a solution to help enhance narcotics security.       

RxSafe, headquartered in Vista, has constructed a robotics storage and retrieval system for pharmaceutical stock bottle inventory. The RxSafe 1800 Inventory Control System is offering a new generation of protocol in the pharmacy world. Bottled medications on shelves or narcotics in a locked door, otherwise known as open inventory, are a thing of the past with this automated pharmacy machine which can hold up to 1,800 stock bottles.

“Our idea was to take these stock bottles and put them in a very small footprint to reduce the amount of inventory storage space needed,” RxSafe President and CEO William Holmes said. “These bottles are placed in a locked, secured vault, if you will, and hold everyone accountable who touches every bottle. So there is security and accuracy.”

The size of the RxSafe is 6 feet by 8 feet.

Additionally, the RxSafe provides the pharmacy user with the accurate bottle, pill, count and strength with every script fill.   

For Holmes, that’s another important feature. He shared that the human error rate in the industry is about 3 to 4 percent, so there is a 96 percent accuracy in a routine job.

“We have not had a single reported filling error using a RxSafe in 10 years,” Holmes said. “Millions of prescriptions have been filled perfectly and we are very proud of that.”

Another issue with narcotics security has been how any number of people handle bottles without any records.

“There are lots of opportunities for something to go wrong with that,” Holmes said. “Even just misfiling it is an opportunity for something to go wrong.” He added that narcotics security violations are something every pharmacy wants to avoid. “You don’t want to be having repetitive problems with missing narcotics.”

When a bottle comes into a RxSafe pharmacy, it goes directly into the machine. 

“We put a sequential serial number on the bottom, so each bottle is uniquely identified in the system,” he said. “We can run a report that shows you when it arrived, who put the stamp on it, and who put it in the machine.” He added that the bottles are weighed to ensure there has been no tampering.

Once a bottle of medication is inside the machine, it’s locked. All that can be seen from the outside are serial numbers — no medication names are visible.

“Every time this bottle is required to fill a prescription, the operator must be biometrically (fingerprint) logged in, so we know who it is,” Holmes said.

Once authorized, the system will know what the user requested. Also reported is the number of pills when the bottle was retrieved and the number of remaining pills when the bottle goes back into RxSafe.

“We track all of that. We can give you dozens of examples of people who have tried to get around that system and take things — and every single time they get caught and usually arrested,” Holmes said.

Holmes said RxSafe acts as a deterrent to thieves both internally and externally. He also believes that potential thieves will think twice about a pharmacy break-in after seeing this machine because the medications are not an easy grab.

RxSafe towers are in pharmacies spanning 24 states in the nation. They are also making an international footprint in other countries such as Mexico.

The company opened its doors in 2008 in San Marcos. It quickly outgrew its space and eventually found its newest headquarters at the Vista Business Park in 2015 with room to expand its square footage. Its suppliers are only minutes away.

Kevin Ham, the director of development for the city of Vista, shared that his division has been mindful of the business park.

“It’s about what can we do such as who are the suppliers that we can bring in to help these businesses,” Ham said. “And what are the ancillary uses that can come into the business park. We have tried to create that environment to support companies in our community proactively.”


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