The United States is in the middle of an opioid epidemic.
Every day, 134 people die of opiate-related overdoses.
So many people are overdosing from heroin and synthetic opioids that the U.S. life expectancy shortened two years in a row. In the first advisory form a Surgeon General since 2005, the Surgeon General urges more people to carry naloxone, an opioid antidote.
The Federal government’s research shows that a large driver of the epidemic is perscription drug abuse. The majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from friends and family, often coming straight out of the medicine cabinet.
Proper disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs is an effective way to improve the opioid crisis.
Some people are not able to get to the DEA’s drug take back locations.
CVS and Walgreens are implementing another way to help customers dispose of their leftover prescription drugs.
Up until 2014, pharmacies weren’t allowed to take back prescriptions. People could only dispose of drugs in police departments- and for obvious reasons, not everyone was comfortable with that.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued new regulations due to the growing opioid problem that expanded the ways to safely return and dispose of prescription drugs.
In 2016, Walgreens began adding drug disposal kiosks in its chain stores.
Walgreens now has 600 drug disposal kiosks and has collected more than 270 tons of medications so far. It is partnering with AmerisourceBergen, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Pfizer and Prime Therapeutics to add kiosks to another 900 locations.
The kiosks for drug returns and disposal look kind of like a mail box.
Consumers simply drop the unwanted medication into the slot and the drugs get picked up by a medical waste company as the kiosk fills up.
Rick Gates, Walgreens‘ senior vice president of pharmacy operations, who was involved in the kiosk idea since its inception, says that initially the medical waste company planned on emptying the kiosks once a month, but they were filling up so quickly they had to clear them once a week or once every other week.
CVS Health is in the process of installing 750 kiosks in various chain stores. It’s already donated more than 800 units to police departments.
So far, CVS has collected nearly 158 metric tons of medications from drug take back kiosks.
It sounds simple to install a kiosk, but complying with drug disposal regulations is complicated. Each unit takes time and planning to make sure it is up to regulation standard. Some of the requirements are that the kiosk be bolted to the floor (so nobody can just make off with it). The kiosk has to be locked at all times to prevent abuse of the drugs dropped off in it, and the medical waste disposal company has to be up to the DEA’s protocols as well.
Drug disposal kiosks in pharmacies are not yet available everywhere.
There are other companies working on other options for Household Waste Disposal, besides for the good work being done by the Walgreen’s, CVS, the DEA’s National perscription drug take back day and police stations and fire houses. For example, Google put out a locator tool for drug take back locations that works by zip code. We will keep reporting about various household waste disposal options that will be offered by Walgreens, CVS, and other companies all working hard to come up with practical solutions for consumers.
We will continue to add updates about the opioid crisis and new solutions. It is time that we all did our little part to help save lives and reduce opioid addiction.
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