California Plan Calls for Drug Companies to Pay for Discarding Unused Medications

Officials in Alameda County, California, approved a measure this week that would force pharmaceutical companies selling drugs in parts of the San Francisco Bay area to submit plans for safely disposing of unused medications, or incinerating them.

The plan would require drug companies to shoulder the cost and responsibility for medication disposal programs in the county. Companies that failed to comply could face civil penalties of up to $1,000 a day, as well as misdemeanor criminal charges punishable by jail time for company executives. Supporters of the measure say it is the first of its kind in the country, according to Reuters. Two biomedical industry groups are opposing the measure, the article notes.

The county operates 21 disposal sites, where unused or expired medications can be dropped off.  Officials estimate county residents still have as much as 681 tons of unwanted medications at home. Supporters of the plan point to research showing discarded prescription drugs are ending up in the water supply. They also cite the growing number of overdoses from prescription drug abuse.

The measure requires a second vote, which is scheduled for later this month.

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