How Walmart Is Taking On The Opioid Crisis

"Walmart is proud to fund this initiative that provides our patients with an opioid disposal solution they can access nationwide."

An unexpected player is stepping up in an attempt to fight America's opioid crisis — Walmart.

As reported by USA Today, the retail giant has come up with a safe solution to dispose of unused prescriptions, which frequently contribute to and or trigger opioid abuse. Known as DisposeRx, this free opioid disposal technique (reportedly the first of its kind) includes a small packet with an FDA-safe chemical blend that, when emptied into a pill bottle with warm water, lets patients safely throw away any leftover medications. How does this work, you ask? When mixed with the aforementioned chemical blend, the medications — pills, tablets, capsules, liquids or patches — are converted into a non-divertible and biodegradable gel.

Taking things one step further, Walmart announced that in addition to giving patients filling any new Class II opioid prescription a DisposeRx packet, they will also be providing ongoing counseling to customers who have been prescribed opioids at any of its 4,700 pharmacy locations.

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"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 U.S., said in a press release announcing this new opioid disposal plan. "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. Walmart is incredibly proud to fund this initiative that provides our patients with an opioid disposal solution they can access nationwide, at no cost."

The press release also notes that according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 65 percent of people misusing prescription opioids are getting them from family and friends, and personal prescriptions are one of the main sources of non-medical opioid abuse. In other words, this initiative may have the power to slow down the opioid epidemic and save lives.

Opioids are grossly overprescribed in dozens of counties across America, and even though the rate of prescribing pills nationwide in 2015 was lower than the prescription rate in 2010, a CDC report indicates opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people in 2015.

Given those sobering facts and figures, it's not surprising that politicians have already begun to praise Walmart's new initiative. "About one-third of medications sold go unused. Too often, these dangerous narcotics remain unsecured where children, teens or visitors may have access," said Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas) in a Walmart statement."I commend Walmart for taking this innovative approach to help keep unused prescription drugs out of the wrong hands."

Cover image tishomir / Shutterstock.com.

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