Industry faces new effort to make it pay for drug disposal

David Chiu, San Francisco Board of Supervisors president

The U.S. biopharma industry has been battling a drug take-back law in Alameda County, CA, for several years, concerned that if it is approved, other jurisdictions would start asking them to pay for drug disposal. That law was upheld by a federal court, and now San Francisco is looking to the industry to pay the full cost of its drug-disposal law.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors president David Chiu this week introduced an ordinance that would expand a city program already in place and require drugmakers to pay for it. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and some drugmakers, have voluntarily contributed toward the program for several years and their $200,000 has covered about 40% of its cost, CBS SF Bay Area reports.

The proposal comes after the defeat earlier this year of legislation that would have required the drug industry to cough up funding for a statewide program. But it also follows on the heels of a federal appeals court ruling in San Francisco that upheld the legality of the Alameda program. PhRMA and other drug associations have been fighting that one for several years.

After arguing against it in court, the industry said in a statement, "This proposed approach is impractical, inefficient and reflects an attempt on the part of the county to directly, significantly, and unconstitutionally regulate companies whose connection with Alameda is nothing more than having introduced federally approved products into interstate commerce." But the appeals court last month ruled that it was legal. The industry has yet to decide if it will further appeal the law.

Alameda's success has inspired other areas. PhRMA is fighting a law in King County in Washington state that is modeled on the Alameda law. Heidi Sanborn, who runs a program in California that pushes for manufacturers to pay for the disposal of not only drugs but also paint, batteries and other hazardous products, told SFGate that the federal court ruling may be the tipping point in the country. "I think the floodgates are open," she said.

- here's the CBS story
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