A new public education campaign has been launched by federal health officials, which aims to help get unused opioid painkillers out of the homes of Americans, to help combat the continuing epidemic of abuse and addiction.
The FDA has launched a new campaign, “Remove the Risk,” to encourage proper disposal of prescription opioids and educate Americans about easy ways to get rid of the drugs.
In 2017, retail pharmacies dispensed more than 191 million opioid prescriptions to 60 million patients. Of those, 90% of patients reported not finishing what was prescribed to them. This potentially leaves millions of unused prescription medications in medicine cabinets and American homes, making it easier for people to misuse or abuse them.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, half of the people who misuse opioids got them from family members or friends.
“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. Millions of unused opioid pills should not be readily available and easily accessible in our homes,” said Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., deputy director of regulatory programs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
The new campaign is a part of the FDA’s larger efforts to address the ever worsening national opioid crisis, linked to doctor overprescribing and drug company kickbacks, among other factors. It is now more likely for a person to overdose from opioids than die in a car accident.
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 public service announcements, fact sheets, and social media graphics. The materials are free of charge for any organization working to combat the opioid crisis, including the media, healthcare providers, and consumer groups.
The effort is focused on helping Americans understand the importance of properly disposing of unused prescription narcotic medications, since opioids account for nearly 70% of all overdose deaths.
The new campaign includes updated information on safe disposal of unused prescriptions in the Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know website.
According to the FDA, the best way to dispose of unused opioids is by using medicine take-back programs offered by many pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies. The next national Prescription Take Back Day is April 27, 2019.
“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.”