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Walgreens Rx disposal kiosk program adds partners

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AmerisourceBergen, BCBSA, Pfizer, Prime Therapeutics help expand rollout

DEERFIELD, Ill. — AmerisourceBergen, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Pfizer and Prime Therapeutics are helping Walgreens fight the national opioid epidemic by expanding the availability of safe medication disposal kiosks.

The drug chain said Wednesday that the effort will bring the medication disposal units to an additional 900 Walgreens stores near military bases and other areas where the opioid abuse crisis has challenged communities.

Plans call for the 900 Walgreens medication disposal kiosks to be installed over the next 10 months. When the expansion is complete, kiosks will be available in about 1,500 Walgreens stores nationwide.

Walgreens noted that the announcement builds on the 600 medication disposal kiosks it installed starting last year across 45 states and the District of Columbia. The kiosks collected 155 tons of unwanted medications in the first 18 months of the program. With the program’s expansion, the goal is to collect another 300 tons of unwanted medication over the next two years.

“We are proud to work with organizations from throughout the health care community to make it even easier for people to dispose of their unwanted medications,” Walgreens president Alex Gourlay said in a statement. “Since launching this program in 2016, we have been truly inspired by the response of the safe medication disposal program from communities around the country. The expansion of this program is a great example of health care organizations coming together in collaboration to address a real health crisis facing the country.”

Members of the military have emerged as a population particularly vulnerable to opioid abuse, the companies reported. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, medication misuse is higher among service members than civilians. With additional disposal kiosks, military communities will now have greater access to a safe way to dispose of unwanted or unused prescription drugs.

“As a supply chain partner, we are committed to finding comprehensive solutions to mitigate the opioid epidemic impacting our communities, and we understand the important role we play in helping to combat medication diversion and abuse,” stated Bob Mauch, executive vice president and group president of the Pharmaceutical Distribution & Strategic Global Sourcing division at AmerisourceBergen. “Innovation and collaboration between all parties involved in the delivery and regulation of health care will drive the greatest progress in impacting the opioid crisis, and the diverse partnership supporting the expansion of Walgreens highly successful safe medication disposal program is a strong example of the type of collaboration that’s needed.”

A recent Prime Therapeutics survey foiund that people taking opioids may not know how to safely dispose of unused medications. Just 17% had spoken with their doctor about safe disposal of unused medicine. Almost a quarter of adults keep unused opioids instead of disposing of them, and only 27% of those who dispose of old medicine use a take-back program to safely dispose of controlled substances.

“This crisis calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach,” according to Jonathan Gavras, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Prime Therapeutics. “Prime is proud to be sponsoring this take-back kiosk initiative — as an extension of Prime’s existing Controlled Substances Management Program — because we not only need to monitor for appropriate use, we need to make sure these dangerous medicines don’t fall into the wrong hands. We encourage everyone to go through their medicine cabinets and drop their unwanted medicines safely into a nearby Walgreens kiosk.”

Helping to achieve the goal to collect 300 additional tons of unwanted medication in two years is the #ItEndsWithUs campaign, recently launched by Walgreens to educate teens on the opioid epidemic. The campaign provides teens with online resources to end the opioid epidemic and positive steps they can take within their communities, including how to dispose of unwanted medicines.

“Pfizer is committed to addressing the prevention, treatment and effective response to the growing opioid abuse in our country,” commented Freda Lewis-Hall, executive vice president and chief medical officer at Pfizer. “This partnership reaffirms our support for measures that promote the proper and safe disposal of unwanted medicines to deter prescription drug diversion and to protect the environment.”

The Walgreens medication disposal kiosks allows people to safely and conveniently discard unwanted, unused or expired over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including controlled substances, at no charge. The kiosks are available during regular pharmacy hours.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) is proud to support this critical and timely initiative so that more communities across the country will have access to safe medication disposal,” stated Kim Holland, vice president of state affairs for BCBSA. “Prescription medications that sit in home medicine cabinets pose a potential safety threat to family members and can be highly susceptible to diversion and misuse. With the escalating opioid crisis, it’s more important than ever to invest in initiatives that focus on prevention and help keep loved ones and communities safe.”

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