- Los Angeles County, CA and Cook County, IL — the two largest counties in the nation — may adopt ordinances to set up financed medication take-back programs intended to give residents a means to safely discard unwanted medications. The municipal stewardship programs would follow those established in King County, WA, as well as five California counties and San Francisco. Walgreens has also committed to becoming the country’s first national retail pharmacy chain to set up medicine collection bins, which will soon appear in 500 of their stores, beginning in California.
- Some drug producers are fighting the cities' proposed ordinances, and in Alameda County, CA, PhRMA took its grievance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who would not hear their case.
- Meanwhile, the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC) gathered more than 100 signatures of individuals and organizations calling on the Food and Drug Administration to end its “flush list” to divert medications from bodies of water.
About 30% to 40% of medications are never used in the United States, according to the NSAC. Despite these staggering numbers, and the reality that this leads to accidental drug-related health hazards and pharmaceutical pollution in waterways, only 1% of pharmaceutical companies offer a drug take-back program.
In response to the public health and environmental dilemma, California’s Alameda County became the first in the nation to launch a take-back ordinance in 2012, with backing from Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
"Now we are seeing jurisdictions outside of the West Coast tackle this issue," said Heidi Sanborn, executive director of NSAC, commenting the trend in locations where these initiatives are launching has been to divvy up responsibilities between government and industry, where pharmaceutical and needle manufacturers design and fund consumer-friendly take-back programs that ideally include educating people about their collection options.
"I am very pleased to see a groundswell of local interest in developing safe and secure take-back programs that protect our public health and the environment," said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who tried to push through a statewide drug take-back program in California, which stalled. "I commend Los Angeles and Cook counties for joining us in the fight to prevent prescription drug abuse and keep our water clean."