Walmart is giving away free opioid disposal kits

Retailer also plans to start selling Narcan

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Walmart is trying to help curb America's opioid crisis.

The retail chain said Wednesday that its pharmacies will offer a free kit that allows patients to safely throw out unused opioid prescription pills at home. The packet, called DisposeRx, dissolves pills into a biodegradable gel.

Walmart says it's the first national pharmacy to offer the solution.

DisposeRx will come with new painkiller prescriptions filled at Walmart and Sam's Club 4,700 pharmacies around the country.

Patients with chronic prescriptions will get a free DisposeRX packet every six months. Walmart will also offer free DisposeRx packets to existing patients.

Leftover prescription pills, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, are at the center of the drug epidemic. Opioid overdoses killed 42,249 Americans in 2016, the deadliest year on record, according to National Center for Health Statistics.

"About one-third of medications sold go unused. Too often, these dangerous narcotics remain unsecured where children, teens or visitors may have access," Arkansas Senator John Boozman said in a statement.

Walmart already distributes safety brochures with prescriptions and offers counseling on safe opioid use. It also plans to start selling Narcan, an overdose blocker, at pharmacies later this month.

Retail pharmacies have taken steps to address opioid abuse as the crisis has grown. CVS started selling Narcan in 2016 and limited opioid prescriptions to seven days in September. Walgreens began stocking pharmacies with Narcan in October.

"The health and safety of our patients is a critical priority; that's why we're taking an active role in fighting our nation's opioid issue," said Walmart's Marybeth Hays.

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