New York — Wal-Mart, seeking to curb opioid abuse, will offer its pharmacy customers a product that dissolves unwanted or expired prescription drugs.

Customers filling a new class II opioid prescription at any of Wal-Mart’s 4,700 US pharmacies will now receive a packet of DisposeRx, a powder that — when mixed into a pill bottle with warm water — creates a safe, biodegradable gel, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. Those with refillable opioid prescriptions will get a free sachet every six months, and customers can request a free packet at any time.

The move comes as the US grapples with the scourge of opioid addiction, an affliction that often begins when chronic-pain sufferers fill a prescription at a retail pharmacy chain such as Wal-Mart, CVS or Walgreens. More than two out of three people misusing prescription opioids get them from family and friends, according to federal data. Opioid overdose deaths rose 28% in 2016, to 42,000 men, women and children.

Wal-Mart touted the DisposeRx offering as the "first of its kind" because it allowed patients to dispose of unwanted or expired pills at home. CVS and Walgreens currently offer medication-disposal kiosks at hundreds of locations, a service that Wal-Mart doesn’t provide. Wal-Mart does sells a drug-deactivation product called Deterra, which is made by Verde Technologies.

The DisposeRx product has been in use for about six months in hospitals and other locations, according to John Holaday, the company’s co-founder and CEO. A Wal-Mart spokesperson said the retailer did not have any ownership stake in the start-up.


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