New York Times Examines Increased State Interest in Prescription Drug Redistribution Programs
The New York Times on Wednesday examined how more states have begun to consider programs that would allow the redistribution of unused prescription drugs as part of an effort to reduce health care costs. According to a 2001 study published in the Journal of Family Medicine, an estimated $1 billion in prescription drugs prescribed to elderly patients are discarded annually.
FDA prohibits the redistribution of unused prescription drugs dispensed to consumers, but states can allow the practice for medications in pharmacies, nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
A number of states -- such as Oklahoma, Louisiana and Ohio -- have passed legislation in recent years to allow such facilities to redistribute unused prescription drugs to low-income patients. Nebraska allows consumers to return unused prescription drugs, provided that they remain in "tamper-resistant packaging," the Times reports.
In addition, Texas this week might pass legislation to expand a state prescription drug redistribution program, and California, Maine, Washington and other states have begun to consider such programs.
Such programs have raised concerns about patient safety and privacy, the lack of an infrastructure to process and redistribute prescription drugs and administrative requirements.
"I don't want to sound overly negative, but there are lots of obstacles," Susan McCann, administrator of the Missouri Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, said, adding, "It doesn't matter how safe the drugs are, how many of them there are, or how neat and crisp the records are if there isn't a database to tell patients what's available and where it is."
William Winsley, executive director of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, said, "We know those drugs are perfectly good. They've been under lock and key; they've been stored properly."
Gay Dodson, executive director of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, added, "You need to reimburse the state or insurer or individual who paid for the drug, and there's a big hassle in that paperwork" (Strom, New York Times, 5/18).