Safe, Convenient, Cost-Effective and Green: Jackson Introduces Bill To Create Statewide Drug Take-Back Program

March 06, 2014

SACRAMENTO – To address a growing problem of prescription drug abuse, accidental poisonings, and traces of pharmaceuticals found in drinking water, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has introduced a bill to create a statewide program to dispose of leftover prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Continuing the work she began last year on this issue, Senate Bill 1014 would require drug manufacturers to create, finance and manage a statewide system for collecting and safely disposing of unwanted prescription drugs that people have in their homes, similar to a program operated by the pharmaceutical industry in Canada. The bill, modeled after an Alameda County ordinance, will be heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on March 26.

“Every year, billions of dollars in medications is prescribed in California, but as much as 40-50% of those drugs can end up unused,” said Jackson. “This creates public health and environmental challenges. When prescription drugs are left in medicine cabinets, teens can get their hands on them, fueling a growing problem of prescription drug abuse. Drugs left sitting around can lead to accidental poisonings by seniors and children. Flushing medications down into the sewage system can affect the water we drink. We need a better solution, one that is safe, convenient, cost-effective and environmentally sound.”

For the past 15 years in parts of Canada, in a program paid for by the pharmaceutical industry, consumers have been able to conveniently dispose of unused drugs in bins located at pharmacies, where they are safely destroyed. Similar programs also exist in Europe.

While some safe drug disposal sites do exist in California, there are only 305 such sites in the state to serve 38 million Californians. This patchwork of programs doesn’t meet public demand and are financed by local governments and ultimately, California taxpayers, Jackson said.

“While a number of local governments have admirably stepped up to establish their own drug take-back programs, it’s the taxpayers who end up footing the bill for this, with no assistance from the multi-billion dollar drug industry,” Jackson said. “We are hoping that the industry will join us in sharing the responsibility for what happens to these unused medications.”

The bill is sponsored by the California Product Stewardship Council, Clean Water Action, the California Alliance of Retired Americans, the City and County of San Francisco and Alameda County.

Alameda County was the first local government agency in the country to pass an ordinance requiring drug manufacturers to develop, implement and pay for a drug take-back program.

Three pharmaceutical associations responded by suing the county. The county prevailed in trial court and the case is now on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am proud that Alameda County has demonstrated leadership on this issue by adopting a sustainable policy solution that promotes good will and corporate social responsibility, “  said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. “SB 1014 would implement a drug take-back program statewide – a common sense solution that will help protect all California residents and the environment.”

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

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Contact: Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4019 lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov