Opioid Packaging Often Lacks Info on Safe Storage, Disposal

Instructions for safe disposal of unused opioid medications often inconsistent, infrequent, or absent
Instructions for safe disposal of unused opioid medications often inconsistent, infrequent, or absent

HealthDay News — Messages relating to safe storage and disposal of prescription opioids are inconsistent and are often not included on package insert information, according to a research letter published online April 17 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Mitchell L. Doucette, PhD, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues characterized messages on storage and disposal in package inserts for opioid analgesics in six commonly prescribed and misused types of opioid analgesics. Package inserts were extracted from a 10 percent random sample of products from each type. 

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The researchers identified one message on safe storage and three on safe disposal among the 98 reviewed package inserts. The message relating to safe storage stated that in order to prevent theft, the medications should be securely stored. About two-thirds of the 35 package inserts with this message were for oxycodone or morphine. Messages on safe disposal stated that unused medications should be discarded or flushed down the toilet (31 and 34 messages, respectively) or that providers should provide instruction regarding safe disposal (28 messages). Most inserts with messages on safe disposal were for oxycodone and morphine products. None of the inserts for tramadol products and only one of 33 inserts for hydrocodone products had messages on storage or disposal.

"Providers educating patients on safe storage and disposal practices may reduce the supply of misused prescription opioids," the authors write.

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