The cost is only $330,000 a year for an industry that sells hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of drugs annually in the U.S., but pharma does not like the precedent. So for more than a year, drugmakers have fought a California Bay Area law that would require them to pay the cost of a program for collecting and disposing of unused drugs. And now they've lost.
In the most recent round, a federal judge has upheld the law in Alameda County, CA, that assesses to drugmakers the cost of running 30 dropoff sites and disposal of leftover drugs, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The law will not allow drug prices to be raised to cover the expense. Industry groups representing about 100 drugmakers argued that the law discriminates by putting the entire burden of the program on the industry and shifts costs to consumers outside of the county and state. But U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg of San Francisco said the ordinance treats all drug companies the same, whether located in or out of California, and the law serves a legitimate public purpose. "The ordinance applies to producers who elect to sell their products within Alameda County, regardless of where the producers are based," Seeborg said in a ruling issued last week.
The reasons Alameda County officials give for having a program mirror those elsewhere. They include concern over juveniles getting their hands on prescription drugs, as well as the potential environmental impact of pharmaceuticals being dumped in drains and ending up in the water supply. 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.
PhRMA, BIO and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) teamed up in December to sue after Alameda County passed the legislation. The case brought by the trade groups claims that the pharma industry is ill-suited to the task of drug disposal. While it lost its suit and the law is slated to take effect in November, the battle may not be over. The industry can appeal Judge Seeborg's ruling.
- read the San Francisco Chronicle story