Drug manufacturers must pay to dispose of unused and expired medications, at least in Alameda County, CA. This is according to a Federal appeals court, which upheld a lower court’s earlier ruling.
The ruling stems from arguments between Alameda County officials and representative of pharmaceutical industry of how the cost of the drug take-back program should be divided. Drug take-back programs are not a new thing. National Prescription Drug Take Back Day was established in 2010 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a safe and responsible way for people to dispose of prescription drugs sitting in their medicine cabinets. And this year, CVS Pharmacy renewed their drug collection program that places permanent drug collection sites in local police departments.
Historically, local governments have been responsible for footing the bill for drug take-back programs like Alameda County’s. However, their County ordinance takes precedence as it’s the first in the nation to require drug manufacturers to pay for the cost of the program.
Back in 2012, Alameda County passed an ordinance establishing the drug take-back program that required drug companies to cover the disposal costs of the expired or unused prescription medications collected by the county. The ordinance was drafted to give residents an alternative to flushing medication down the toilet, reducing contaminates in the drinking water.
County officials and industry trade groups were at odds over the cost of the program. Local officials estimated the annual cost of the program is just under $350,000, while representatives from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers say costs to drug makers would be closer to $1.2 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the pharmaceutical industry’s lawsuit claiming that the Alameda County ordinance interfered with interstate commerce. The court stated that the ordinance treats all drug manufacturers equally and does not place substantial burden on interstate business. The drug companies make $950 million annually in Alameda County, the court noted, and could easily afford the cost of the program.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors issued a statement in which Nate Miley, one supervisor, says the “decision was the right decision. We believe our Safe Disposal Drug Ordinance is fair and will set a national precedent as a new policy tool for local governments to protect public health and the environment. We have led the charge and it is my hope that the pharmaceutical industry will embrace this ruling and join us in keeping unwanted medications from causing harm such as accidental poisoning, abuse by children and teens, or ending up in our waterways.”