Why Walmart Thinks a Gel Could Stop Opioid Abuse


How a gel could prevent opioid abuse and get pharmacists more involved.

In an effort to curb the misuse and abuse of opioid prescriptions, Walmart pharmacies will offer a free Rx Disposal kit to any patients who receive a Class II opioid prescription.

Opioid abuse is a serious health issue that currently results in 91 Americans deaths a day. Having a reliable disposal method may help minimize abuse because an estimated third of all opioid medications prescribed in the U.S. are not used. Left in unsecured locations, such medications can easily fall into the hands of the wrong person. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 65 percent of the people who misuse prescription opioids get the drugs from family and friends.

Making easy-to-use, environmentally-responsible disposal tools may help address this problem.

“Anything that prevents such diversion is good,” says Gerard J. Schmidt, MA, LPC, MAC, president of The Association for Addiction Professionals. “A major part of the opiate problem is the result of diversion.”

Unlike other medication disposal programs-such as the DEA-sponsored Prescription Take Back Day- which require patients to bring their old medications back to a pharmacy or other location, the kit makes it possible for patients to dispose of their medications at home.

The kit contains an FDA-approved crosslinking polymer blend, DisposeRx, that can be emptied in the pill bottle with warm water to responsibly dissolve leftover medications-including powders, pills, tablets, capsules, liquids, or patches-into a non-divertible and biodegradable gel. Once the DisposeRx powder has been added and the product solidified, it can be thrown away normally, without the risk of the leftover being tampered with or contaminating other waste.

“We know that prescribers and payers are not yet ready to implement limited quantity initial fill prescriptions,” says Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, RPh, executive vice-president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacies. “Many await final DEA guidance on this matter. That leaves far too many opioids in peoples’ homes where diversion can and does happen. This seems like one step in the right direction.”

A side benefit to the kit is that it sets up a direct interaction between the pharmacist and person picking up the prescription.

 “With the disposal kit pharmacists have an opportunity to talk to patients and stress how important it is to dispose of leftover opioids,” said Schmidt.

DisposeRX will be available nationwide at the company’s 4,700 pharmacies and also at Sam’s Club pharmacies.

“The health and safety of our patients is a critical priority; that’s why we’re taking an active role in fighting our nation’s opioid issue,” says Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Consumables and Health and Wellness at Walmart US.

Cover image source: Walmart

Video source: DisposeRx, Vimeo

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