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Leftover opioids?  Mailed Kits Double Proper Removal Rate


By Robert Preidt Health Day Journalist
health day reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 11, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Could giving surgical patients ready-to-use mail-in disposal kits for unused opioids reduce the risk of abuse of these drugs?

Yes, says a new study that found patients with unused opioid painkillers are much more likely to dispose of them properly when given the kits.

There is a risk that leftover opioid medications will be misused by the person for whom they were prescribed or by others. If thrown in the trash, they could be found by children or animals, or could harm the environment. Flushing them down the toilet also poses environmental risks, the researchers explained.

There are safe disposal sites, like some pharmacies, but patients often don’t use them because they may be out of the way or it takes extra effort.

In this study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania assessed whether mail-in safe disposal kits could make a difference.

The study included 235 patients who were prescribed opioid painkillers after orthopedic or urological procedures. The usual procedure was followed for about half of the patients, who were sent instructions by text message on how to dispose of their unused pills, as well as a link to the locations of local safe disposal sites.

The other patients received the same text message but were mailed disposal kits four to seven days after their procedure.

The remaining opioids were eliminated correctly by 60% of those who received the elimination kit, compared to 43% of patients who did not receive the kits, the investigators found.

Some studies show that only 20-30% of US patients properly dispose of unused opioid medications. These results therefore suggest that mail-out kits could double or triple that rate, according to the study authors published online May 6 in Open JAMA Network.

The researchers noted that the use of mailed disposal kits by 125 study patients safely disposed of 480 unused opioid pills.

“I was delighted to see that such a simple, ‘postal mail’ approach could change behavior and promote self-reported elimination,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Anish Agarwal, Professor Deputy Emergency Medicine and Director of Wellness for the Department of Emergency Medicine at Penn Medicine.

“The opioid epidemic clearly continues to be the focus of patient concern, and concerns about opioid use and abuse are becoming a real part of the conversation between physicians and patients,” added Agarwal in a university press release. “I think patients are more aware of the risks and consequences of using opioids and storing them in their homes.”

More information

For more information on safe drug disposal, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania, press release, May 6, 2022


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