Walgreens Takes Major Steps to Reduce Opioid Deaths

Walgreens Takes Major Steps to Reduce Opioid Deaths

By May Wilkerson 06/22/16

Walgreens has announced plans to launch two opioid abuse prevention programs in Oklahoma and will expand to other states throughout the year.

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Walgreens Takes Major Steps to Reduce Opioid Deaths

In Oklahoma and across the country, Walgreens is taking major steps to help decrease deaths from opioid abuse. The major pharmacy chain announced on Monday that it is launching two groundbreaking programs in Oklahoma: 1) helping people dispose safely of unused medications, and 2) making opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, available without a prescription at all Walgreens pharmacies in the state. The two programs are just one facet of a comprehensive national plan to crack down on the growing epidemic, which is causing a rising death toll throughout the country.

So far, Walgreens has installed nine safe medication disposal kiosks in Walgreens pharmacies throughout Oklahoma, where patients can drop off unused medications to help prevent them from getting misused or abused. Evidence has showed that these kiosks can reduce the misuse of medications, leading to a decrease in overdose deaths. This is part of a nationwide effort to help patients dispose safely of medications. By the end of the year, there are expected to be kiosks at more than 500 Walgreens locations across the country.

“By making safe medication disposal kiosks available in select Oklahoma stores and expanding to other states this year, Walgreens is taking an important first step to curb the misuse of medications throughout the country,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens President of Pharmacy and Retail Operations, in a statement. “As a pharmacy, we are committed to playing a role in what must be a comprehensive solution to prevent prescription drug and opioid abuse.”

The chain store has also made naloxone available without requiring a prescription in all of its Oklahoma pharmacies. The antidote reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and has been proven to reduce the death toll from prescription painkiller and heroin overdoses. And yet, the lifesaving antidote is still difficult to obtain in many parts of the country.

“By making naloxone available without a prescription, we are making it easier for Oklahoma families and caregivers to help their loved ones in need,” said Howard Atlas, Walgreens Regional Vice President for Oklahoma, in the company statement. “We are committed to making naloxone more accessible in the communities we serve.”

Walgreens announced in February that it would make naloxone available without a prescription in 35 states and Washington D.C. Customers can now purchase naloxone without a prescription in more than 1,600 Walgreens pharmacies in Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington and now Oklahoma. Eventually, the antidote will be available in 5,800 Walgreens across the country, the company said. Additionally, the pharmacy chain also will continue to offer a substance abuse education program for pharmacists and student pharmacists.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the state saw 427 opioid-related deaths in 2014 alone. The use of naloxone has been instrumental in dealing with the problem. The health department expanded naloxone availability in the state in 2014, and Oklahoma City Police officers have been equipped with the antidote since 2015.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/ @alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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