Tuesday, March 13, 2012

County postpones action on Drug Disposal Plan

No jurisdiction anywhere in the United States requires medication manufacturers (either prescription or over the counter) to create a program to dispose of their unused medications.  Alameda County government had on its agenda today an ordinance that would have required the thousands of companies that sell medication in the county to come up with a plan within the next 6-9 months. The plan was vague and most industry’s affected by the ordinance had not been consulted by county staff.

 The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce urged the Board to postpone action until affected companies could be heard from.  The Board listened and action was postponed to no later than June 5.

The ordinance is meant to address three problems; (1) accidental poisoning when someone takes prescription or over the counter drugs not intended for them, (2) illegal sale and use of prescription drugs (usually taken from the proper person), and (3) contamination of the environment (particularly water supplies) when the chemical compounds of drugs are found in natural and treated water.

Nothing in the staff reports indicate that the first two problems will be addressed by creating drug disposals sites paid for by the manufacturers.  And the third problem (which no report provided by County staff, has indicated is very large nor harmful) is almost entirely caused when the intended user of a medication passes the chemical compounds through their system naturally (not from disposal of unused drugs).

The ordinance would require all producers of prescription and nonprescription drugs (generic and brand name) to develop a “Product Stewardship Program”.  The program would require establishing collection sites, a mail-in program, an education and outreach program, a tracking program and disposal program.  Each program would have to accept all unwanted products regardless of who produced them. Each producer can establish their own program or work collaboratively with one other or all other producers of drugs.  Any violation can of any aspect of an approved plan can leads to fines of up to $1,000/day per violation.  

The County hopes to convene a working group with affected drug manufacturers and see how the ordinance can be made workable and achieve any of its objectives.

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