San Francisco requires drugmakers to fund disposal of unused meds

California's Alameda County has held fast against Big Pharma pushback to its drug take-back ordinance that requires drugmakers to fund a program for accepting and destroying unused meds. Its activism has now drifted across the Bay to San Francisco, which has passed its own ordinance to require the same thing.

The city will have drugmakers pay for a program that has been voluntary for several years but which collected about 37,000 pounds of unwanted medications, the San Francisco Business Journal reports. The idea is to keep unused meds out of the hands of teenagers and from being flushed down toilets where they might end up affecting water quality. City supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance recently before sending it to the mayor.

As with the Alameda County ordinance, drugmakers say the San Francisco provision is a bridge too far. Scott Melville, CEO of the Washington, DC-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association, tells the Business Journal that there are no proven benefits to these kinds of programs and they ultimately cost consumers more. The association suggests educating people about how to safely dispose of unused meds is better than the program the city has embarked on.

The $235,000 cost so far has been voluntarily paid for by South San Francisco-based Genentech and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA). PhRMA is one of the plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit that challenges the program that Alameda County has established, which has drugmakers pay and prevents them from tacking on a surcharge to cover the cost. The groups behind the lawsuit in December asked the U.S Supreme Court to hear their challenge after losing in federal appeals court in San Francisco.

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