CHEROKEE, Iowa (KCAU)– A local hospital shared the results of the Billion Pill Pledge program, an experimental trial to help reduce opioids in communities.

In November 2022, the Cherokee Regional Medical Center was approached to be the first hospital in Iowa to implement a program to remove 1 billion opioids from medicine cabinets.

“It’s part of how we can address the opioid epidemic that is so serious here in Iowa, and it provides solutions getting rid of unnecessary prescription pills and getting unneeded pills out of people’s homes,” said Brenna Bird, the Iowa Attorney General.

According to recent studies by the Billion Pill Pledge, 6% to 10% of folks get addicted to opioids after going through surgery.

Dr. John Greaves, podiatric surgeon with Cherokee Regional Medical Center says the program removes opioids from most aspects of surgeries.

“Before surgery, patients are receiving Tylenol through their IV as well as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. And then post-operatively they have local anesthetic blocks, which help to numb that surgical sight post-operatively for a period of time. And then also we’re treating them with Tylenol,  non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and then opioids after surgery,” said Dr. John Greaves, with Cherokee Regional Medical Center.

Since implementing these new methods of pain management, multiple patients have voiced concerns about the program. However, Dr. Greaves reassured them.

“Education is important and again explaining to the patients how we’re treating their pain and how we’re treating their pain from multiple avenues, and again they’ve been very receptive to that,” said Dr. Greaves.

In the roughly 7 months the program has been in place, the Cherokee Medical Center has reduced roughly 10,000 prescription pills from entering the community.

“I would love to see this program made available to even more hospitals. I think that would be very helpful, but we saw  today the success of the program. That it got opioid pills out of people’s homes, those left over pills that family members can become addicted to,” said Bird

Brenna Bird says the expansion and future of the program is now up to the Iowa legislature.