FDA Launches Campaign to Encourage Safe Removal of Unused Opioid Pain Medication from Homes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday the launch of a new education campaign to help the public understand the importance of removing and properly disposing of unused prescription opioid medication from their homes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday the launch of a new education campaign to help the public understand the importance of removing and properly disposing of unused prescription opioid medication from their homes.

The “Remove the Risk” campaign is part of the agency’s work to address the American opioid crisis and aims to decrease unnecessary exposure to opioids and prevent new addiction. The campaign targets women ages 35-64, who are “most likely to oversee household health care decisions and often serve as the gatekeepers to opioids and other prescription medications in the home,” according to the FDA.

“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.”

Prescription opioids are powerful medications that can help patients successfully manage pain, when properly prescribed and used appropriately. When misused or abused, however, they can lead to serious harm, such as addition, overdose, and death.

In 2017, retail pharmacies dispensed more than 191 million opioid prescriptions to almost 60 million patients. As many as 90 percent of these patients reported not finishing the medications prescribed to them, which means potentially millions of unused prescription opioids could be left in U.S. homes if not disposed of properly. According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, half of people who misused prescription opioids got them from a friend or family member.

The FDA has launched a new toolkit of materials as part of the “Remove the Risk” campaign, including fact sheets, social media graphics and posts, and public service announcements on television, radio, and in print. The agency has also updated information on safe disposal of unused prescription opioids on its Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know website.

“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. “Our ‘Remove the Risk’ campaign serves to both educate Americans on this issue and provide them with easy-to-follow steps to take so they can immediately remove prescription opioids from their homes and avoid unintentionally contributing to the risk of misuse or abuse of these drugs by a friend or loved one.”

The preferred way to safely dispose of most kinds of unneeded medications are medicine take-back options. Authorized medicine take-back locations may be in retail pharmacies, hospital or clinic pharmacies, and law enforcement facilities. The next National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is slated for April 27.

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