Mailing At-Home Kits to Increase Opioid Disposal
Daniel Lee, MD, MS
Zarina Ali, MD, MS
Yaxin Wu, MS
Mary Cognilio, MBA
Tanya Uritsky, PharmD
Food and Drug Administration
There is a risk that leftover opioids may be misused by the person they were prescribed to or by others. Interventions that encourage the safe disposal of leftover pills can help to mitigate this risk.
We piloted a program among patients undergoing orthopaedic or urologic procedures to assess whether mailing at-home disposal kits to patients might increase the rate of proper disposal of leftover opioids.
Patients were randomly assigned to receive usual care or participate in the intervention. Participants in the usual care arm were texted instructions to dispose of any unused opioids along with a link detailing the locations of local safe disposal points. Intervention participants were mailed an at-home disposal kit timed to arrive four to seven days after their procedure when they were most likely to be finished taking opioids. Patients in both groups were prompted to self-report disposal via text message.
Leftover opioids were disposed of properly by 60 percent of patients who received the at-home disposal kit, compared with 43 percent of patients who received usual care.
Some studies show that only about 20 to 30 percent of patients in the United States properly dispose of unused opioid medications. Hence, findings from this study suggest that mailed disposal kits could double or triple that rate. The approach will be expanded to other populations across the health system and is currently being scaled to examine its effects at large.