RARITAN TOWNSHIP — Hunterdon Healthcare received a sizable donation on Thursday of a tool created to weaken the power of the prescription pill and opioid epidemic strangling New Jersey and much of the nation.

Thanks to U.K.-based pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt, the hospital is now in possession of 5,000 drug deactivation pouches that are specially formulated to neutralize prescription drugs.

When filled with tap water, the biodegradable pouch can be sealed and thrown away with household trash.

Assemblyman Roy Freiman, D-Somerset, who was on hand for the donation event, said when prescription medications are not properly disposed, the end result can be tragic because they can be stolen, misused or abused.

Assmeblyman Roy Freiman
Assemblyman Roy Freiman speaks at a prescription drug disposal event at Hunterdon Healthare (New Jersey Assembly Majority Office)

Drop boxes are available in each New Jersey county for residents to dispose of their unwanted drugs, but not everyone is willing to make that trip, he said.

"This is fantastic," Freiman said of the pouches. "To be able to have this type of disposal in the home, and have the immediacy associated with it ... It's just so logical."

A national survey found that 6 in 10 adults using opioids had or expected to have leftover opioid pills, according to the lawmaker's office.

Hunterdon Healthcare will enlist the help of local and county law enforcement to distribute the pouches free of charge. If used to their 45-pill capacity, the pouches can help destroy approximately 225,000 pills.

"What we're striving for is to keep our community as healthy as possible, and these drug deactivation pouches will certainly help us do that," said Donald Pinner, senior vice president of community health development and chief operating officer for Hunterdon Regional Community Health.

The pouches can also deactivate liquid opioids, Pinner said. Drop box locations do not accept liquids.

Pinner said Hunterdon Hospice can get a lot of use out of the product. When patients die, drugs are left in the home.

Mallinckrodt's pouches, and other versions, are available through online retailers.

“As a company focused on the health and well-being of our patients and communities, Mallinckrodt has long been a strong advocate of addressing the complex issues of opioid misuse and abuse that cause so much harm in New Jersey,“ Mark Trudeau, Mallinckrodt President and Chief Executive Officer, said in a news release.

“We share the concerns of people across the nation, and believe that providing patients with a safe, environmentally responsible way to dispose of unused medications is critical in this fight against prescription drug abuse."

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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