New Drug Disposal Law Doesn’t Make Sense

Jim's Corner

Product stewardship is a broad term applied across many industries, encompassing environmental, health, and safety concerns. Companies in each sector of the biotech industry (healthcare, agricultural, and industrial and environmental) have championed stewardship programs for many years – not just because it makes good business sense, but because they believe it is the right thing to do.

With grant money from US EPA, the City of Chicago has purchased pharmaceutical collection boxes like this one.

Within the healthcare space, the impact of pharmaceuticals in the environment has become an issue of emerging debate. Although there is little, if any, credible evidence that improper disposal of pharmaceuticals may be causing environmental or public health harm, federal agencies and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) nonetheless have developed programs to educate consumers about proper disposal of prescription medicines in order to minimize any possible residual risk.

However, earlier this year, Alameda County, California passed an ordinance requiring drug makers to set up programs to collect and dispose of expired and unused drugs from residential consumers, known as “take-back” programs. While likely well intended, this painfully shortsighted law will do little to reduce improper disposal of prescription drugs and may actually harm efforts to ensure proper disposal of such products.

BIO supports efforts to protect patients, safeguard water supplies, and address potential abuses associated with unused medications. However, the Alameda County ordinance places unprecedented responsibilities on prescription drug manufacturers – and only such manufacturers — to develop, manage, execute and fund waste disposal operations that are more properly the responsibility of local and municipal governments, in coordination with other local entities such as pharmacies and other drug retailers that dispense drugs to customers. Furthermore, it does so in a way that will force consumers of drugs in other counties, cities, and states to fund waste disposal efforts that will benefit only Alameda county residents, by exempting all local businesses and consumers from having to contribute any funding for or provide any assistance in implementation of these take-back programs.

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