The FDA has announced the launch of a new education campaign to spread awareness of the important role that Americans play in removing and properly disposing of unused prescription opioids from their homes, in time for the DEA's National Prescription Take Back Day on April 27, 2019. 

The new initiative, entitled “Remove the Risk,” is part of the agency’s continued efforts to address the nationwide opioid crisis and aims to help decrease unnecessary exposure to opioids and to prevent addiction.  

As part of the campaign, the FDA has also launched a toolkit, available in English and Spanish, that includes the following materials: television, radio and print public service announcements (PSAs); fact sheets, social media graphics and posts; and website badges for individual, professional, and organizational use.

Prescription opioids can be beneficial as pain-relieving medications when prescribed to the right condition and when used properly. However, when abused or misused, the drugs can lead to severely negative conditions such as addiction, overdose, and death.

According to the press release, retail pharmacies dispensed more than 191 million opioid prescriptions to almost 60 million patients, either as first-time prescriptions or refills, in 2017. As many as 90% of these patients reported not finishing what was prescribed to them, potentially leaving millions of unused prescription opioids in medicine cabinets and elsewhere in US homes if not disposed of properly. During that same year, 47,600 people died from an overdose involving opioids. According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, half of people who misused prescription opioids got them from a friend or family member.

The agency promotes medicine take-back options, the preferred method to properly disposing unneeded medicines safely and effectively. Authorized locations may be in retail pharmacies; hospital or clinic pharmacies; and law enforcement facilities. Some authorized collection sites may also offer mail-back programs or “drop-boxes” to assist patients in safe disposal of their unused medicines.


FDA launches public education campaign to encourage safe removal of unused opioid pain medicines from homes [news release]. US FDA website. Published April 25, 2019. Accessed April 26, 2019.