California county to vote on medicine disposal bill

Posted Jul 24, 2012 by Tim Sandle
A law is being proposed in Alameda County, in California, which would require pharmaceutical companies to take on the responsibility of disposing of unused medicines.
The proposed ordinance is to be discussed and debated by California's Board of Supervisors this week. ABC News notes that this is termed the ‘Medication Disposal Bill’. If the motion is passed, then ‘big pharma’ would be responsible for paying for programs to dispose of expired and unused drugs.
No other similar scheme currently operates in the US, so if the motion is passed it would not only be ground breaking, it could lead to other regions passing similar bills. The Alameda County ordinance is being introduced by Supervisor Nate Miley.
Alameda County currently operates a scheme where residents can dispose of unwanted medicines at ‘drop off’ spots. The scheme costs $330,000 to run. Proponents of the bill argue that pharmaceutical companies should pay for this as part of ‘corporate responsibility’.
According to PharmPro, the argument in favor is the law is that it would reduce the dangers to the environment that unused medicines pose, especially when medicines enter the water supply. This is a big risk when medicines end up in landfill sites, with over 80% of waterways tested in the U.S. showing traces of common medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, blood pressure medicine, codeine, and antibiotics, according to data supplied by the United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County.
Another pro argument is that the requirement would also reduce the level of expire drugs held in people’s homes and prevent medicines from falling into the wrong hands, such as drug abusers or children.
Counter arguments are that such a program would have little impact upon the environment. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes Kent Olson, executive medical director of the California Poison Control System, as saying that the move will cost pharmaceutical companies a lot of money: "They can't reuse pills, and they would have to store them safely and find some place to put them, which takes a lot of money.”
If the ordinance is passed it will be interesting to see if others follow.