BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Walgreens is unveiling its new safe medication disposal program in Louisiana, just as lawmakers at the state capitol are set to consider measures ramping up the fight against opioid abuse.
The convenience store chain has installed the kiosks at 12 stores across the state, including at their location at the intersection of Government St. and Acadian Thwy. in Baton Rouge.
Safe medication receptacles allow people to safely and conveniently dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired prescriptions drugs, including controlled substances and over-the-counter medications. The program is free.
"Many people are unknowingly a source of an abuser's drugs. By disposing of old prescriptions drugs in kiosks like these, you can help keep them out of the wrong hands," said East Baton Rouge Mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome, who was at an event Thursday unveiling the new kiosk.
Louisiana, like much of the country, is currently wrestling with a growing opioid abuse problem. In East Baton Rouge Parish, there were more overdoses than murders last year: 89 to 61.
"There are far too many families being torn apart by preventable deaths," said Gov. John Bel Edwards.
During the upcoming legislative session, the governor is backing two bills aimed at combating the state's growing opioid problem. One of those bills, sponsored by Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, puts a limit on how much of a drug a doctor can prescribe. The bill allows only a 7-day supply of opioids for first-time adult patients, with exceptions for those suffering from cancer or receiving hospice care. It also provides restrictions on the size of an opioid prescription for children.
"Making sure, for example, that we're not prescribing at the outset more pain pills than is necessary for a medical condition limits the opportunity for patients to become addicted in the first place to prescription opioids," said Edwards.
The other bill, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, mandates that doctors make sure patients are not shopping around and getting more of a drug than they should. "We can strengthen and make sure doctors are checking the first time, so they are not duplicating efforts that are already taking place," said Edwards.
Bills aimed at fighting the opioid problem have seen success in recent years at the capitol. In 2016, legislation making the overdose reversal drug, Naxolone, available over-the-counter flew through the capitol without a single vote in opposition.
Lawmakers from both sides of the partisan aisle are already voicing support for the two measures this year.
"Something everyone realizes, we've got to get a handle on some kind of way," said Rep. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, who called voting in support of the new measures a "no brainer."
The receptacles at Walgreens pharmacies will be available for use during normal pharmacy hours. Receptacles have been installed at the following locations:
- Baton Rouge: 3550 Government St.
- Baton Rouge: 4747 S Sherwood Forest Blvd.
- Bossier City: 2107 Airline Dr.
- Covington: 1203 Business 190
- Houma: 1435 W Tunnel Blvd.
- Lafayette: 2517 Kaliste Saloom Rd.
- Marrero: 4600 Westbank Expy.
- Metairie: 4545 W Esplanade Ave.
- New Orleans: 4110 General Degaulle Dr.
- Opelousas: 410 Creswell Ln.
- Slidell: 1260 Front St.
- Sulphur: 1021 Beglis Pkwy.