Decision to Kill Drug Disposal Law May Be Large Victory for Pharmaceutical Producers

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Legislators shelved bill SB 1014 this week, which would’ve required the nation’s first statewide drug take-back program to be funded by pharmaceutical companies. The bill was put on ice after the required votes couldn’t be mustered in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.

The bill’s intention was to keep discarded medications from being able to contaminate waterways and to reduce the amount of prescription abuse. Though SB 1014 had ample backing from over 100 local environmental and governmental groups, the ever powerful pharmaceutical industry opposed the bill, saying it’d increase the cost of medications, as well complicate pharmaceutical logistics.

It’s a fair argument, since the cost of prescription drugs already in the United States rise by about 12% each year. Having to pay for an additional 300 or 400 drug drop-off facilities in California would surely have made the cost of medications rise even more.

Except, it would be a good argument, if it weren’t for the fact that the bill wouldn’t have let drug makers impose a surcharge, which means that the bill wouldn’t have cost taxpayers a single thing.

The bill is based off of legislation from Alameda county, which the pharmaceutical industry has been bitterly fighting ever since. The Alameda county legislation expects drug makers to pay $330,000 to run 30 drop-off sites across the county, which is truly a drop in the bucket for an industry that makes billions every year. Though they did lose the fight against Alameda’s legislation in late 2013, they’ve so far won the battle against SB 1014.

Though beaten for now, the bill isn’t dead. Its sponsor, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, said that she’d amend the bill to reinstate guidelines for local governmental agencies that wanted to build their own drug take-back programs. Jackson also plans to reintroduce the legislation next year.

“I am disappointed that we were unable to move forward with a statewide plan this year,” said Jackson. “But I am committed to this issue and to helping to solve the immense public health and environmental challenges created by unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

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