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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will begin offering pharmacy customers a way to dispose of unused prescription drugs in their homes, taking a step it hopes will help curb the misuse of opioids.

The Bentonville retailer said that beginning today customers having prescriptions filled for Class II opioid drugs at any Wal-Mart or Sam's Club pharmacy will be given a packet of powder developed by North Carolina-based DisposeRx Inc.

The product, when added to warm water, will transform any form of the prescription drugs into a biodegradable gel that can't be diverted to another use and can be placed in the trash.

Mary Beth Hays, executive vice president for consumables and health and wellness at Wal-Mart U.S., said the health and safety of patients is a critical priority for the company. Wal-Mart is funding the initiative to take an "active role in fighting the nation's opioid issue."

"While this issue requires many resources to solve, we're confident that this unique, easy to use-disposal solution, DisposeRx, will make a meaningful impact on the lives of many," Hays said.

Class II drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse. Wal-Mart declined to say how many Class II prescriptions it fills in a year but cited data from the federal National Institute of Drug Abuse that more than 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from substance-abuse disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. More than 65 percent of people misusing prescription opioids are getting them from relatives and friends, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

DisposeRx was created as a way to responsibly dispose of leftover medication. DisposeRx co-founder and Chief Executive Officer John Holiday said the product has been available for six months and used in select hospitals in the U.S.

"We're proud to be working with Wal-Mart to introduce this through their pharmacy and through that opportunity to make it available to their patients," Holiday said.

The disposal system works by adding warm water to a bottle containing unused medication until it is two-thirds full. Then the DisposeRx powder is added to the bottle, the cap is put on and the contents are shaken for 15 to 30 seconds. The solution solidifies in less than 10 minutes, becoming a gel that can be thrown away. Holiday said it has been determined safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

John Kirtley, executive director of the Arkansas Board of Pharmacy, said he got a glimpse of the solution while meeting with Wal-Mart about the product. He said the final, jell-like solution looks very difficult to misuse because of the way the DisposeRx powder breaks down the drugs.

"I think this is a great solution for people on a small scale, how to prevent single bottles of prescription drugs from potentially harming other people," Kirtley said.

Kirtley still recommends disposing of the drugs at one of more than 100 take-back locations around the state because they go to a facility approved by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wal-Mart, which also sells a similar drug deactivation system called Deterra in its stores, does not accept pill returns. But the company said the DisposeRx initiative is one of several ways it is trying to address prescription drug abuse.

The company also said it stocks naloxone -- which can reverse opioid overdoses -- and will offer the drug for sale or for dispensing by a pharmacist by the end of the month in states that allow it. Arkansans can purchase naloxone over the counter without a prescription after the state last year passed a new law intended to curb fatal opioid overdoses.

Wal-Mart said it funds a variety of multistate programs that teach young people about the dangers of prescription drug use.

Arkansas' U.S. Sen. John Boozman commended Wal-Mart for its initiative with DisposeRx, calling it an "innovative approach" to disposing of unused prescription drugs.

"About one-third of medications sold go unused," Boozman said in a statement. "Too often these dangerous narcotics remain unsecured where children, teens or visitors may have access."

Business on 01/17/2018

Print Headline: Retailer to throw in opioid disposer

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