Drug Makers Must Pay County Disposal Fee

Supervisor Nate Miley

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors this week passed a new policy, the first in the country, requiring drug companies to pay for collecting and disposing of leftover drugs they manufacture. The unanimous vote on July 24 addresses the problem of what residents should do with their unused and expired medications. Alameda County has become the first local government in the country to enact a policy mandating pharmaceutical companies design, operate and fund a collection program. The effort has attracted wide support from a variety of cities and agencies throughout the Bay Area and across the country struggling with the same issue. “I am proud that we’ve found a more sustainable policy solution that promotes good will and corporate social responsibility,” said Supervisor Nate Miley, president of the Board of Supervisors. “The community’s growing demand for more permanent and convenient medication disposal sites goes far beyond what the county can fund and operate on its own, ” he said. There are at present 28 med collection sites throughout the county, which dispose of discarded medications at a cost of $40,000 per year. The collection sites are operated by 10 different agencies, which donate labor, including East Bay Municipal Utility District, Union Sanitary District and the City of San Leandro. Of the annual $186 million in profits generated by drug companies in the county, officials say the projected cost of a comprehensive program producer-funded program would be about 1 cent for every $33 of pharmaceuticals sold in the county. “This ordinance is the low hanging fruit that gives us something that we can do now to help avoid medication waste from getting into our environment at the source,’’ said Andria Ventura, Program Manager at Clean Water Action in San Francisco. “It makes financial, environmental and social sense.” The scarcity of medication collection sites has led residents to stockpile drugs in their homes, throw medications in the trash or flush them down the toilet – all of which have public health, safety and environmental risks.
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