PhRMA, BIO, GPhA ask court to trash California drug disposal law

Pharmaceutical companies, which have been fighting a county drug disposal law in the California Bay area for nearly two years, say they exist to develop and produce drugs, not to be waste disposal companies. But that is what the law in Alameda County would require them to become, they told a federal appeals court.

"We are pharmaceutical producers, and they are requiring us to be waste disposal experts," Michael Carvin, a lawyer for drugmakers told the court Friday, according to SFGate. He argued the "burden" the law puts on interstate trade would be unconstitutional.

PhRMA, BIO and GPhA, which represent the full spectrum of drugmakers, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after a federal judge in San Francisco last year upheld the disposal law. The county has argued that unused drugs pose a threat by making them easy targets for teens and that there is a risk of them getting into the water supply when people flush them away. The law requires drugmakers to cover the cost of operating 28 sites that receive unused drugs. According to SFGate, Alameda estimates the if drugmakers take control, they could handle disposal for about $500,000 a year but drugmakers said they think it would run $1.2 million.

In a statement Friday, the organizations said, "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."

Judge N. Randy Smith

The trade groups said the bill shifts the cost to interstate producers, an argument that SFGate said didn't seem to impress the justices. "Why does it matter where it's produced" if the drugs are taken in Alameda County, and create potential hazards there, Judge N. Randy Smith said. "It just so happens that the majority are in other states," he observed.

The stakes for industry if the law is upheld extend beyond California. King County, WA, has used the Alameda County law as a model for its own disposal program. In December the trade associations filed suit against that proposal.

- here's the statement
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