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Nonprofit startup connects low-income patients with surplus medications in win-win


Sirum is a nonprofit organization startup that sees itself as the “Match.com” for medicines, connecting unexpired surplus drugs that would otherwise be destroyed with the safety-net clinics that need them. It is a turnkey company that uses technology to connect donor and recipient organizations and coordinates donation logistics.

An organization that dispenses medication such as a nursing home will enter the medications they have available onto the Sirum website, and clinics can request these medications for their low-income patients. Several hundreds of facilities each make a small donation that in aggregate amounts to a very consistent supply that overlaps well with what patients need, says Sirum co-founder and director Adam Kircher. In recent years Good Samaritan laws concerning drug donation have been passed in 38 states and Guam. Most states do not permit the donation of controlled substances. 


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1 in 4 working-age Americans reported not filling a prescription or skipping a dose because of cost

U.S. hospitals and long-term care facilities annually discard millions of pounds of unused pharmaceuticals, an investigation by the Associated Press reports, which they pay to have destroyed. At the same time, 1 in 4 working-age Americans reported not filling a prescription or skipping a dose because of cost during the previous 12 months, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

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For Kircher, connecting manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, and health facilities with low-income patients seemed like a logical solution that aligned with his belief that everyone deserves access to health care. Furthermore, disposal of medication has an environmental cost: testing of U.S. streams has shown that 1 in 3 water samples contain hormones widely used in pharmaceuticals.

The initial inspiration for Sirum came when Kircher visited Indonesia after a tsunami and while following relief efforts observed huge stockpiles of medicines sitting unused and then becoming expired. It seemed to him that given the lightning speed with which consumer goods are shipped in the U.S., there must be a more efficient way to connect relief supplies with those who were desperately in need.

HEALTHCARE_TECHNOLOGY_Sirum_female_boxes_inspecting gloves

With his background in web development and computer programming, Kircher, who has a bachelors and masters in industrial engineering from Stanford and is currently on indefinite leave from Harvard Business School, originally envisioned a peer-to-peer website that would help relief efforts internationally.

He quickly realized that given the logistics of international aid efforts, such as the need for cargo ships, his project was better suited for the U.S. He developed a vision of a website that would allow any donor of surplus medication to register with a safety-net clinic, but soon also realized that it was insufficient, as the facilities involved needed more support. Sirum has since evolved into a full-service organization that provides outreach to donors and recipients and coordinates donation logistics including itemized drug manifests, tracking, and shipping.

Sirum has been working with state departments of health and the environment to implement medication redistribution programs. Ultimately Kircher and his partners would like to grow Sirum into a program that could compete at the national level and play a larger role in pharmaceutical pricing.

Prior to founding Sirum, Kircher was a healthcare consultant for McKinsey who worked around the world. When he left McKinsey to create Sirum “everyone looked at him and thought he was out of his mind.” They have since come around, however, and his friends and family have been very supportive. Kircher has big dreams for his nonprofit startup but appreciates that it’s important to take pleasure in the work, as “if you set goals high enough it might take 10 years to get where you want and you must enjoy the day-to-day.”

 

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Associated Press. (2008 September 14). Tons of drugs dumped in wastewater. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26706059/ns/health-health_care/t/tons-drugs-dumped-wastewater/#.W75P3xNKiAw
Morgan, S. and Kennedy, J. (2010 June). Prescription drug accessibility and affordability in the United States and abroad. Retrieved from https://www.commonwealthfund.org/sites/default/files/documents/ __media_files_publications_issue_brief_2010_jun_1408_morgan_prescription_drug_accessibility_us_intl_ib.pdf
Biological activity of steroid hormones in U.S. streams. Retrieved from https://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/glucocorticoids.html
State Prescription Drug Return, Reuse and Recycling Laws. (2018 October 1). Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-prescription-drug-return-reuse-and-recycling.aspx
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