SOUTHERN PINES – For William Simpson, it’s no secret how his small startup company, DisposeRx, in Southern Pines scored a major product placement with retail giant Walmart.

William Simpson

“We saw a problem and built a solution,” Simpson, the company’s president, says matter-of-factly, only a few days after announcing the deal at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

DisposeRx developed a safe, cheap and easy way to neutralize unused, unwanted or expired prescription opioids so they can’t be diverted for illicit, recreational use. The product, also called DisposeRx, is a powder that, when mixed with water, permanently dissolves and sequesters excess opioids and other drugs in a stiff, biodegradable gel that can be safely thrown in the trash.

Walmart now makes available a free packet of DisposeRx with every new prescription of Class II opioids filled at its 4,700 pharmacies nationwide.

“This is quite a big deal for us,” Simpson says.

Providing ‘the right information’

The deal took a few months to execute, from start to finish, Simpson says. It began when Walmart approached DisposeRx, searching for novel ways to protect the health and safety of its pharmacy customers while helping curb the national opioid-addiction crisis.

“They were looking for a best-in class solution, and they had done their due diligence,” Simpson says. “They had come talking to us, and we started sharing with them information about what we do and how we could work together. They were wanting to change the dynamic of the way people dispose of their opioids.”

Simpson says his company listened closely as Walmart’s executives outlined the information they needed to decide whether DisposeRx was the right product for the retailer.

“We gave them as much information as they needed to be able to make that decision,” Simpson says. “A small company has got to be able to be flexible enough to understand why they’re asking questions. It’s not all about moving fast. It’s about moving in the correct space with the right information.”

After convincing Walmart that DisposeRx had “a gold standard of a disposal solution,” Simpson says “from there it was just about making the best deal for both companies.

“I think Walmart saw the benefit in our solution versus others,” he says. “This is about saving lives, and I think Walmart sees that, and so do we. I think they’re looking at this as a long-term commitment to the health of the community. It’s exciting to see a company of that size and influence take the position that they’re taking.”

Expansion and scale-up next

Financial terms of the Walmart deal were undisclosed. Simpson confirms only that Walmart will purchase quantities of the product and dispense them at no cost.

The agreement will require DisposeRx to ramp up its product manufacturing dramatically.

“We’re looking at supplying them with many many packets of our materials that are going to be in every Walmart store in the United States,” Simpson says.  “We are going to have to produce a lot more than we were producing.”

DisposeRx will rely on its joint venture with IBR Packaging of Carrolton, Texas, to blend and package enough product for Walmart and future customers, he says.

The packets contain a crosslinking polymer blend that, when added to a pill bottle with warm water and shaken, deactivates any form of prescription drugs – powders, pills, tablets, capsules, liquids or patches. Chemicals in the packet are listed as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

The company is working with state governments, hospitals and stakeholders in the pharmaceutical-supply chain to make DisposeRx more widely available.

“Together with Walmart, and then eventually hopefully with other pharmacies, we’ll begin to save lives and take this burden away from consumers by giving them an easy solution to properly and safely dispose of their medications,” Simpson says. “It’s a mission of educating consumers and really trying to put a solution out there where we can change behavior and clean out our medicine cabinets.”

About 70 percent of opioid addictions, overdoses and deaths begin with opioid painkillers that remain unused in patients’ medicine cabinets. These opioids may be diverted to abuse by friends and family, and the cycle of addiction requires increasing amounts of drugs to manage tolerance and prevent withdrawal symptoms.

“DisposeRx provides a virtually effortless way for patients to destroy leftover opioids and a way to do so without ever leaving home,” Walmart said in announcing its deal with DisposeRX.

Dr. John Holaday, chairman and CEO of DisposeRx, says that among the various approaches to drug disposal, including drug take-back programs, flushing and mixing with charcoal or kitty litter, “we believe that DisposeRx is the most effective, permanent, convenient and affordable solution.”

DisposeRx will expand its eight-person staff to handle its growing business with Walmart and other customers, Simpson says.

“We were in the process of expanding, and it’s speeding up some of that process,” he says. “We will be expanding carefully. We’re still looking at what we need on our end to not just service what we’re doing today but what we have planned for the future.”

Note: For more information about DisposeRx, read WRAL TechWire’s recent profile of the company and watch a brief video showing how its product works.