Drugmakers renew attack on takeback law

It looks like the legal challenges to the Alameda County, CA, drug takeback law will hang around longer than an expired bottle of pain meds. PhRMA and other trade groups challenging a law that drugmakers must pay for the recycling program in the San Francisco Bay Area are pursuing the matter after a federal appeals court upheld it.

Alameda County unanimously voted to pass the law--which makes pharma companies liable for the disposal of unused and expired drugs--despite strong opposition from the industry. The fight, first to stop the law from passing and now to overturn it, has been going on for more than a year. A federal district court in San Francisco last month upheld the law, but according to a posting on the CaliforniaHealthline website, PhRMA has now appealed that ruling. Liz Magsig, director of communications for PhRMA, and George Goodno with BIO both confirmed the groups have appealed the August ruling. Magsig said the appeal is scheduled to be heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals next April.

The position of PhRMA, BIO and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association has been that the pharma industry is ill-suited to the task of drug disposal. The way they view it, Alameda County is asking the drug industry to expand beyond its core business into "a combination of municipal waste disposal and local law enforcement."

Official estimates place the cost of the current program--where residents drop drugs off at 28 sites--at $330,000 a year. The trade groups are particularly unhappy that the law prohibits them from covering the cost with a local point-of-sale fee. Without it, PhRMA claims citizens in the rest of the U.S. will have to foot the bill, making the law unconstitutional. But U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco disagreed with that position. He ruled the ordinance treats all drug companies the same, whether located in or out of California, and the law serves a legitimate public purpose.

While other jurisdictions around the country have similar programs, this is believed to be the only one where industry is required to pick up the tab. Pharma has resisted responsibility, given that this kind of program could morph into a national movement and grow the cost exponentially.

- here's the posting

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