Helping the Food and Drug Administration Remove the Risk of unused opioids.
Remove the Risk

Opioid pain medicines claim more than 100 American lives every day.1 Millions of unused pills, patches, and syrups are accessible in medicine cabinets and drawers in homes across the country, after patients who are prescribed opioids do not use their entire prescription. 2 As part of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) continuing efforts to address the nationwide opioid crisis, IQ Solutions worked with the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to develop and promote the Remove the Risk public education campaign, communicating the urgent need for safe disposal of prescription opioids to reduce the chance of accidental or intentional misuse.

Driving a campaign with data and research

Our approach was guided by formative research. An in-depth literature review, social listening scan, and a comprehensive competitive analysis were key to understanding the landscape. Our audience segmentation activities focused communication efforts on "sandwich generation women" as a primary audience. These mothers, grandmothers, and family caregivers between ages 35-64 are most likely to oversee household health-care decisions and serve as the gatekeepers to opioids and other prescription medicines in the home. Message testing with target audience members refined our product development.

Crafting touchpoints with creative products

Safe disposal of opioid medicines can be a complex topic. We developed streamlined messaging that built trust and affinity with the audience. IQ Solutions created actionable creative messaging in video, radio, and print public service announcements; audience-targeted fact sheets; and social media graphics and posts. We created products in both English and Spanish, and designed an online toolkit to facilitate stakeholder participation and engagement.

Reaching out to amplify key messages

Print public service announcements were seen in publications in doctors’ offices.

Outreach and promotion included a national Radio Media Tour featuring FDA spokesperson Douglas Throckmorton, MD, that resulted in more than 17 million listeners for national airings. The effort included promotion via social media, email marketing, and distribution of a consumer-facing article to a network of print and online news publishers. Recognizing that health-care providers also lacked knowledge about safe drug disposal, we hosted a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” for medical professionals. Digital advertising, including Google and Spotify, drove traffic to the FDA Drug Disposal page, where users can learn how to safely dispose of opioids. In combination with PSA distribution for TV and radio, Remove the Risk earned an estimated 849 million impressions and approximately $18 million in ad value.

Social media images and assets were developed in English and Spanish.
  1. CDC, 2020:
  2. Bicket MC, Long JJ, Pronovost PJ, Alexander GC, & Wu CL. Prescription opioid analgesics commonly unused after surgery: a systematic review. JAMA Surgery. 2017;152(11):1066-1071. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2017.0831.


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