During the current state legislative session, two bills are being considered that would establish a statewide system for the secure return of leftover prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Following is a brief summary of SSB 5234 and HB 1370:
• Help stop the epidemic of abuse and poisonings, and protect our water quality.
• Requires no state funds; budget-neutral to the state. Primarily financed by all drug producers selling medicines in Washington, as part of doing business. Removes financial burden from Sheriffs, police, and local governments.
• Not a government-run program. Establishes the non-profit WA Medicine Return Association that will be managed and financed by drug producers so they can control their own funds and operate the program efficiently.
• Total annual costs of the program to drug producers collectively cannot exceed $2.5 million – or about 1 penny for every $16 in sales of medicines annually in Washington.
• Sheriffs, police, local govt’s, and pharmacies in 17 counties are operating take-back programs at limited locations, but are struggling for funding. Most WA communities cannot afford to start a take-back program.
• The federal Drug Enforcement Agency is coordinating some one-day take-back events; however these rely on local resources and will end in 2012 when the DEA finalizes new regulations for take-back of controlled drugs such as narcotics without involvement of law enforcement.
During the 2011 legislative session, the Senate bill was one vote short of being passed out of committee. Although many legislators support these bills, the powerful pharmaceutical lobby was successful in thwarting them. More information about the proposed legislation may be found on the Take Back Your Meds website.