Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Half-way through a controversial pharmaceutical disposal pilot program, officials in San Francisco have dubbed the effort a success. But the future of take-back programs in the city is much less clear.
When it was launched in April of 2012, the program served as a compromise between lawmakers trying to push through legislation that would require drug manufactures to fund and operate a permanent program and the opposition who ultimately defeated the bill. Since then, more than 10,000 pounds of pharmaceuticals have been collected for disposal by the 13 pharmacies and 10 police stations participating in the program.
To fund the pilot, drug companies gave a one-time financial contribution totaling $110,000. That money is set to run out when the program sunsets in June. And it is unclear whether the city will be able to collect enough money to keep the program going, and where that money would come from.
Part of the uncertainty stems from a legal battle being fought to the south of the city in Alameda County. After it became the first legal body to pass a law requiring drug manufacturers to pay for take-back programs in 2012, the county was sued by several organizations representing drug companies. If the court finds in their favor, programs like the one required in Alameda County and proposed in San Francisco would be unconstitutional.
This latest pilot program is one in a series of initiatives San Francisco has passed since 1990 in an attempt to prevent pharmaceutical contaminants from entering the soil and groundwater. An early program that allowed residents to drop-off pharmaceuticals at facilities operated by a trash hauling company was also cut short over legal concerns. Two others ended when the costs proved too much for the city to take on long-term.
For more information on San Francisco's pilot program, read this article.
Written by: Anjanette Riley, IISG Science Writer