CVS Health expands safe medication disposal program in Massachusetts

Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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CVS is expanding its safe medication disposal program to include every CVS Pharmacy location in Massachusetts at no cost.

CVS Health has completed installation of 56 safe medication disposal kiosks in select CVS Pharmacy locations in communities across Massachusetts, adding to the 43 in-store units previously installed and 43 units donated to local law enforcement. To date, 1,700 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide have safe medication disposal and the company has donated more than 990 kiosks to law enforcement. These kiosks have collected more than 1.1 million pounds of unwanted or expired medications, including 57,000 pounds in Massachusetts alone.

Beginning in 2020, all CVS Pharmacy locations that don't currently offer a safe medication disposal kiosk will now offer DisposeRx, a simple solution that enables customers to safely discard their unwanted or expired medications at home. New and existing patients filling prescriptions can request a free DisposeRx packet and opioid safety information brochure when picking up their prescription at any time.

DisposeRx packets, according to the manufacturer, contain proprietary solidifying materials that make safe disposal of unused medication simple. When water and the DisposeRx powder are added to unwanted medications in the prescription vial and shaken, the drugs are rendered unusable, allowing for safe disposal at home.

"When patients leave unused medications — especially opioids — in a medicine cabinet, there is a risk that those medications might be misused or diverted, which is why we have worked to help increase access to and awareness of safe medication disposal options in the communities we serve," said Tom Davis, CVS Health vice president of pharmacy professional services. "Providing more options for the proper disposal of unused medications in our stores and in the home is just one of the ways we're working to help combat opioid misuse across the country."

CVS Health unveiled its safe medication disposal expansion plans, including a commitment to install an additional 1,000 drug disposal kiosks in select CVS Pharmacy locations across the country and donate up to 400 units to law enforcement in 2020, during an event inside a CVS Pharmacy location in Boston with Sen. William Brownsberger, and State Representatives Jon Santiago and Dan Cullinane, and community health organizations.

"We will only make progress on combating the opioid epidemic through collaboration between the public and private sectors," said Santiago. "Today, our city and state, and CVS are demonstrating a shared commitment to reducing the number of unused prescription opioids and making it easier for residents to dispose of them. This is a true example of how public-private partnership can have an immediate impact."

"We are in the middle of a complex public health crisis that is devastating families in every city and town all over the country," said Jen Tracey, the director of the Mayor's office of recovery services. "We are happy to see CVS continue to step up their efforts to help us keep drugs off the streets of Boston."

The company's safe medication disposal units will be put to good use on Saturday, Oct. 26, which marks National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, a biannual event hosted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that provides an opportunity for Americans to help prevent drug addiction and overdose deaths.  Nearly 100 CVS Pharmacy locations will join other community sites throughout the country in hosting drug take-back events and shining a light on the safe disposal of unwanted medication.

CVS Health's commitment to helping prevent and address prescription drug misuse also extends to community education and increasing access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

The company's Pharmacists Teach program brings CVS pharmacists into schools across the country to talk to students and parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. More than 500,000 students and parents across the country have participated in the program.

Additionally, CVS Pharmacy has worked with all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico to increase access to the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan. Patients can obtain this potentially life-saving medication, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, without an individual prescription in these states.

According to recent research from Stericycle's 2019 Drug Takeback Survey, 72% of those surveyed believe having a safe and secure way to dispose of unused prescription drugs would help combat the opioid epidemic. And though 80% said they would use a drop-off option at their pharmacy, 65% said they don't know if their local pharmacy offers such an option. As a result, 29% throw their unused medication in the trash and 26% flush them or pour them down the drain.