In 2017, retail pharmacies dispensed more than 191 million opioid prescriptions to almost 60 million patients, according to a press release by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And as many as 90% of these patients reported not finishing what was prescribed to them – potentially leaving millions of unused prescription opioids in medicine cabinets and elsewhere in US homes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 47,600 people died from an overdose involving opioids that same year.
“Far too many Americans, both teens and adults, are gaining access to opioids for the first time from the medicine cabinets of their parents, relatives and friends,” said Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., deputy director of regulatory programs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Millions of unused opioid pills should not be readily available and easily accessible in our homes.”
New Campaigns For Drug Safety
As such, the FDA has launched a new public education campaign, “Remove the Risk,” to encourage proper disposal of prescription opioids and educate Americans about easy ways to get rid of these unused drugs. The campaign is geared toward women ages 35-64 who are more likely to take part in the household health care decisions and handle the medications in the home, including removal or disposal. It includes materials for television, radio and print, as well as an “outreach toolkit” – public service announcements, social media images and posts, and more – for talking with others about safe opioid disposal. All materials are free of charge for any organization working to combat the opioid crisis, including the media, healthcare providers and consumer groups.
“The epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose is one of the greatest public health tragedies we’re facing as a nation, and no community is immune,” said Amy Abernethy, M.D., principal deputy commissioner at the FDA. “We know that many people who misuse prescription opioids report getting them from a friend or family member. If every household removed prescription opioids once they’re no longer medically needed for their prescribed purpose, it would have a major impact on the opioid crisis’ hold on American families and communities.”
Drug Take-Back Operations
So, what is the best method to remove these medications? The agency promotes medicine take-back options, which is its preferred method in properly disposing of unneeded medicines safely and effectively. Authorized locations may be in retail pharmacies; hospital or clinic pharmacies, as well as law enforcement facilities. In addition, some of these authorized collection sites may also offer mail-back programs or “drop-boxes” to assist patients in safe disposal of their unused medicines.