Wal-Mart Stores Inc., seeking to curb opioid abuse, will offer its pharmacy customers a product that disposes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs.
Customers filling a new Class II opioid prescription at any of Wal-Mart’s 4,700 U.S. pharmacies will now receive a packet of DisposeRx, a powder that — when mixed into a pill bottle with warm water — creates a safe, biodegradable gel, the company said in a statement Wednesday. Those with refillable opioid prescriptions will get a free sachet every six months, and customers can request a free packet at any time.
The move comes as the U.S. grapples with the scourge of opioid addiction, an affliction that often begins when chronic-pain sufferers fill a prescription at a retail pharmacy chain like Wal-Mart, CVS or Walgreens. More than two out of three people misusing prescription opioids get them from family and friends, according to federal data. Opioid overdose deaths rose 28 percent in 2016, to 42,000 men, women and children.
Read more: Ending the opioid crisis in seven steps: Michael Bloomberg
Wal-Mart touted the DisposeRx offering as the “first of its kind” because it allows patients to dispose of unwanted or expired pills at home. CVS and Walgreens currently offer medication-disposal kiosks at hundreds of locations, a service that Wal-Mart doesn’t provide. Wal-Mart does sells a drug-deactivation product called Deterra, which is made by Verde Technologies.
“The best part is that patients don’t have to take the drugs back to a location,” Marybeth Hays, Wal-Mart’s head of consumables and health and wellness in the U.S., said in an interview. “It can all happen at home.”
The DisposeRx product has been in use for about six months in hospitals and other locations, according to John Holaday, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the retailer doesn’t have any ownership stake in the Southern Pines, North Carolina-based startup.
Wal-Mart shares were little changed at $100.72 at the start of trading Wednesday in New York.