In an attempt to stem the tide of rising opioid abuse in the United States, health care organizations have begun providing medication disposal kiosks in retail pharmacies.
On Monday, Walgreens, in partnership with AmerisourceBergen, Pfizer and Prime Therapeutics, announced an expansion of its medication disposal program to include 11 additional S.C. kiosks, giving the state a total of 20.
The kiosks allow individuals to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances and over-the-counter medications.
Midlands Walgreens disposal locations include 4467 Devine St. and 4520 Hardscrabble Road in Columbia and 423 W. Main St. in Lexington.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson praised the groups for taking aim at opioid abuse.
“We all have a role to play,” Wilson said. “It starts at a patient level, (but) it’s vitally important to have a partnership at a global level between companies, distributors and doctors.”
In January, Gov. Henry McMaster unveiled an initiative to educate S.C. residents about the opioid epidemic, including $6.6 million budgeted for opioid treatment clinics and monitoring.
Department of Health and Environmental Control statistics show that 550 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2016 in South Carolina, a 7% increase from 2015 and up 18% from 2014. Fatal heroin overdoses increased by 67% from 2014 to 2015, a year that also saw the number of deaths from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses in the state eclipse the number of homicides. Many people turn to illegal heroin when prescription opioids are no longer available, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“This is a multi-faceted problem, and it’s going to take a partnership from everyone involved to make sure people are safely taking and disposing of their medications,” Wilson said.
The U.S.-wide expansion will add 900 kiosks for a total of 1,500, Walgreens said in a news release. Since the program began in 2016, kiosks have collected more than 270 tons of unwanted medications, according to the release.
“This is just one resource that we utilize for appropriate disposal, but people need to be aware,” Wilson said.