By Steve Birr
Walmart is entering the fight against opioid abuse with a new product for the safe disposal of pills that turns patients’ unused painkillers into a biodegradable gel.
People filling opioid prescriptions for the first time at Walmart will now receive a free packet of DisposeRx, a powder that helps render unused pills safe and useless. A free packet of DisposeRx will be offered to patients on certain classes of opioids every six months, with the goal of helping cut down on the misuse and abuse of opioids plaguing states across the country, reports Reuters.
The powder is added to pill bottles containing unused painkillers and mixed with warm water. The process creates a biodegradable gel around the remaining opioids.
“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 — an issue that has affected so many families and communities across America,” Marybeth Hays, executive vice president of Consumables and Health and Wellness at Walmart, said in a statement, according to USA Today. “While this issue requires many resources to solve, we are confident this unique, easy-to-use disposal solution, DisposeRx, will make a meaningful impact on the lives of many.”
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has previously noted that the majority of opioid abuse occurs with pills obtained through family members or friends.
Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016. Opioids claimed 42,249 lives in 2016, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015, according to data released Dec. 21 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.
Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.