Spreading the Health; February 2009; Scientific American Magazine; by Jessica Wapner; 2 Page(s)
Americans spend some $200 billion annually on prescription drugs. Since 1997, in an effort to keep a lid on costs, 37 states have enacted legislation allowing patients, their families and health care facilities to recycle good, unused pills through local pharmacies
for donation to patients lacking sufficient insurance. Thousands of patients could in principle benefit from these ¿drug repository¿ laws. But as well intentioned as these efforts are, practical problems have prevented widespread implementation of such programs.
The guidelines for these laws, which began thanks to the lobbying efforts of families of cancer patients, are fairly consistent throughout the country. Donated medications must be in sealed, tamper-evident packaging and usually must be within no more than six months of their expiration date. Pharmacies are not held liable should the drug¿s next owner come to unexpected harm from the medication. Some repositories accept cancer drugs only; others take all prescriptions (minus narcotics and sleep aids). Some states accept unused pills from home medicine cabinets, whereas others, as a safety measure, permit donations only from professional facilities such as nursing homes.