San Francisco finds funding to extend drug-disposal program 

click to enlarge The drug disposal program will continue to accept drugs at police stations and pharmacies.
  • The drug disposal program will continue to accept drugs at police stations and pharmacies.

San Francisco will continue to operate a medicine-disposal program for at least another year after negotiating a $125,000 donation from a leading drug manufacturing group to pay for half the costs, the Department of the Environment indicated Thursday.

Yet the deal with the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America does not satisfy the desire of city officials for a more robust program, with disposal sites at every point of sale of prescription drugs.

Leftover pills have the potential to result in drug abuse, even death, and adversely impact the environment if flushed down the toilet or if they are thrown out with the trash and wind up in a landfill.

The City's current program, launched last year, offers drop-off locations at 13 independent pharmacies and 10 police stations. Controlled substances such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Ritalin, Adderall or Valium must be deposited at the police stations only.

During the next year, the Department of the Environment, which oversees the program, will continue discussions with the manufacturers' group and other drug industry players, such as the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, to try and structure a larger and longer financial deal to expand the program.

For now, the program will continue in its current form. It is considered widely successful, having safely disposed of 9 tons of medicine. A review earlier this year of the dropped-off medicine found that 88 percent of the substances were identifiable, of which less than 4 percent were controlled substances and the remainder prescription medicines, a department document indicated.

In April 2012, San Francisco launched this Safe Medicine Disposal Program, funded by a combined $100,000 in grants from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America and a $10,000 grant from Genentech. The program followed a protracted debate over a proposed mandate requiring drug manufacturers doing business in San Francisco to pay for and operate a disposal program.

Meanwhile, last year Alameda County became the first in the nation to pass a law requiring the makers, distributors or sellers of drugs to operate a disposal program. But the drug industry sued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The suit, filed by the manufacturers group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, calls the law an unconstitutional effort to regulate interstate commerce.

A summary judgment in the case is expected any day now from U.S. District Court of Northern California Judge Richard Seeborg.

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