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‘Remove the Risk’: New FDA campaign aims to rid homes of unused opioids

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Photo: Food and Drug Administration

Washington — As part of its effort to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, the Food and Drug Administration has launched a campaign to encourage Americans to safely remove and dispose of unused prescription opioids from their homes.

Through its “Remove the Risk” initiative, FDA hopes to decrease unnecessary exposure to opioids and prevent addiction. The campaign specifically targets women ages 35 to 64, who are most likely to be the primary health care decision-makers and gatekeepers of prescriptions in the household.

Opioids are powerful pain relievers that – when misused or abused – can lead to addiction, overdose and death. Drug poisoning is the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in the United States, according to the National Safety Council. Each day, more than 100 people die from opioid drugs, many of which are prescribed. Additionally, 70% of people who have abused opioids reported getting the drugs from friends or relatives, despite the fact that opioid sharing is a felony.

“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,” Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy director of regulatory programs in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at FDA, said in an April 25 press release. “Millions of unused opioid pills should not be readily available and easily accessible in our homes.”

The preferred method of disposal is community take-back programs, the release states. These include authorized locations such as retail, hospital and clinic pharmacies, as well as law enforcement facilities.

FDA is providing a campaign toolkit that includes public service announcements, fact sheets, and social media graphics and posts. The administration also recently updated its Disposal of Unused Medicines: What You Should Know webpage, which is available in English and Spanish.

“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,” FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Amy Abernethy said in the release. “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.”

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