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FDA Seeks Feedback on Safe Disposal of Opioids

Proposed change would offer mail-back option for outpatient opioids

April 20, 2022

The FDA today announced it’s seeking feedback on a new proposal that could change how millions of Americans dispose of their prescription opioids.

The agency is seeking public input about whether opioids in outpatient settings should be dispensed with prepaid mail-back envelopes and if pharmacists should be required to provide patient education about safe disposal practices.

FDA officials said the mail-back proposal would “provide a convenient, additional disposal option for patients beyond those already available such as flushing, commercially available in-home disposal products, collection kiosks, and takeback events.”

The new proposal comes amid growing concerns about the nation’s behavioral health and a staggering increase in overdose deaths during the pandemic.

“The FDA is committed to addressing the opioid crisis on all fronts, including exploring new approaches that have the potential to decrease unnecessary exposure to opioids and prevent new cases of addiction,” said FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD.

Officials said requiring a mail-back envelope with each prescription could potentially reduce the amount of unused opioids in patients’ homes. Education is also critical to ensure patients know their options to safely dispose of their unused medicine, they said.

The mail-back envelopes would be provided postage paid, and the packages would be sent to Drug Enforcement Administration-registered facilities. The FDA is seeking comments from the public through June 21. Additional information about the proposal can be found here.

The FDA emphasizes the following three steps to consider when safely disposing of opioids:

  1. If a medicine take-back location is readily available, that is the preferred option
  2. Check if your medicine is available on the FDA “flush list
  3. Otherwise, throw away medicine following FDA directions

Additional information about safe drug disposal is available online.

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals are dedicated to addressing the emerging behavioral health crisis across the commonwealth. HAP’s Opioid Learning Action Network (LAN) has brought together providers from across the health care community to address the opioid epidemic, focusing on strategies to improve access to medication-assisted treatment and other evidence-based models of care.

For more information about HAP’s behavioral health priorities, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.