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Rx for Action

A blog devoted to helping people find local medicine take-back programs and highlighting current research findings and pending legislation.

Lawmakers move forward with medicine take-back legislation despite ongoing lawsuit

At the same time one of its counties is battling a lawsuit over the constitutionality of requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay for drug take-back programs, the California legislature is considering making the practice a state-wide policy. SB 727, introduced in February by Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson, would require drug companies to fund the collection, transportation, and disposal of unwanted medications from residential sources.

The bill–titled Medical Waste: Pharmaceutical Product Stewardship Program–is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. If it were to make it into the law books, pharmaceutical manufacturers that sell drugs in California would have until January 2016 to launch individual or joint collection programs with enough drop-off locations that residents never have to travel more than 10 miles to rid their medicine cabinets of unwanted pharmaceuticals. Companies would be expected to pay all operation costs, including a fee to cover money spent by the Department of Public Health while overseeing the programs and enforcing the law. The law would also prohibit manufacturers from passing these costs onto consumers.

Alameda County passed a similar law just under a year ago, the first in the country to make manufacturers responsible for medicine collection. The
Alameda County Safe Medication Disposal Ordinance requires drug companies to submit plans for collection programs by next month. That requirement was put on hold, though, after trade groups filed a lawsuit claiming that the ordinance violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution by shifting the costs of a local program onto interstate manufacturers. The lawsuit is still being reviewed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The same scene is starting to play out in Washington state's King County, where officials are considering their own ordinance. Under
their law, manufacturers would be required to both install drop-off boxes and provide pre-paid, pre-addressed mailers upon request. The county would chip in on some of the initial costs, but the majority of the administrative, operations, and promotion costs would fall to the drug companies. Unlike the California law, though, manufacturers would be allowed to raise their prices to cover program costs. The measure is modeled after a bill that failed to pass in the state legislature last year.

King County's Board of Public Health is in the middle of a series of
public hearings on the proposed ordinance. It was during one of these hearings held last month that a lawyer for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the plaintiffs in the Alameda case, told board members that the trade organization would file a lawsuit against King County as well if the ordinance were ever to pass.

For more information about similar proposed legislation in other states, visit

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Posted by Laura Kammin at 10:19AM on 6/20/2013
Categories: Collection Programs In the News Legislation