Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are praising a new Walmart initiative which aims help combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.
“Opioid abuse is an epidemic that plagues the nation, and unfortunately, we have seen its ugly impacts here in El Paso County,” Suthers said in a press release issued Wednesday by the Attorney-General’s office. “In 2016, El Paso County led the state with 141 fatal drug overdoses. To the extent that we can implement measures that will reduce prescription opioid abuse, and change this trend, we must do so. I applaud Walmart and DisposeRx for providing a tool in this effort.”
The two officials met with representatives from Walmart and DisposeRx on Wednesday for a demonstration of the new product the retailer is handing out to customers with opioid prescriptions.
“Walmart recently announced it would carry and distribute the opioid disposal solution, known as DisposeRx, in all of its 4,700 pharmacies nationwide, free of charge,” the release said. “Additionally, pharmacists have been trained to help educate customers on how to safely and effectively use the product.”
The solution comes as a powder consumers can mix with warm water in a pill bottle to create a gel safe to throw away in the trash.
Coffman recognized the Arkansas-based retailer for its efforts and for being the first major retailer to take such actions in the fight to lower opioid usage among U.S. citizens.
“I commend Walmart and DisposeRX for taking a proactive step to help their customers make sure that unused medications do not end up being abused or misused,” she said in the release. “We know that this opioid epidemic has created a public health crisis that is impacting our social services, our schools, our child welfare services, our addiction treatment services, and our business communities. Most importantly these overdose deaths are not just numbers, they represent family members and friends who leave behind loved ones who are forever affected by their death. Safely disposing of opioid medications can help prevent Coloradans from becoming addicted to life-threatening drugs, and can save lives.”
Walmart pharmacy customers filling Class II opioid prescriptions now will receive a DisposeRx packet in addition to an opioid safety brochure.
“We wanted to do our part to help curb one of the issues contributing to this deadly epidemic — unused prescriptions in our medicine cabinets,” said Michele Pagel, Walmart Regional Health and Wellness Director for Colorado, in the release. “Providing an easy, free, responsible and convenient way to dispose of unused medicine will make an impact and help prevent misuse.”
In 2016, more than 64,000 people in the U.S. died from a drug overdose, which was up 59,000 deaths the year before.
Colorado had 912 drug overdose deaths in 2016, which also was a jump from the previous year, according to the Colorado Health Institute. The Centennial State has set records for drug overdose deaths in 13 of the past 15 years.
“The way out of the current crisis will take innovative thinking, combined with the collaboration of local businesses, community leaders and local and state governments,” DisposeRx Co-founder and CFO Dennis Wiggins, said in the release. “We all have a role to play, whether through public policy, or community partnerships, but as long as we are working together in a systematic way, we will ensure the next generation will be a better place.”