SCOTUS Declines Challenge to Alameda County Rx Drug Disposal Law
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the pharmaceutical industry's challenge to an Alameda County law that requires drugmakers to cover the cost of disposing consumers' unused medications, potentially opening the door for similar laws across California and the U.S., Inside Bay Area reports.
Details of Law
The law, authored by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, aims to prevent prescription drug misuse and keep drugs out of waterways (Oakley, Inside Bay Area, 5/26). It requires drugmakers to design and pay for a comprehensive prescription drug disposal program (California Healthline, 1/6/14).
According to Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler, pharmaceutical industry groups already have submitted two program proposals, which are under review by the county's department of environmental health.
The pharmaceutical industry has said the law would cost drugmakers $1.2 million per year in Alameda County alone. However, the county pegs the cost at about $330,000 annually.
Background on Case
Plaintiffs in the case include the:
- Biotechnology Industry Organization;
- Generic Pharmaceutical Association; and
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
The groups alleged that the Alameda law violates the Constitution's Interstate Commerce Cause (Inside Bay Area, 5/26).
However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in September 2014 rejected the challenge, ruling that the ordinance -- which became the first of its kind in the U.S. -- is applied equally to all manufacturers and imposes no significant burden on interstate commerce (California Healthline, 10/1/14).
In December 2014, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to hear the case (Leuty, "Biotech SF," San Francisco Business Times, 5/26).
However, the high court on Tuesday refused to consider the case, meaning drugmakers that sell products in the area must comply with the law (Shafer, "State of Health," KQED, 4/26).
According to Inside Bay Area, county officials expect similar drug disposal laws to spread across the country following the court's refusal to consider the case.
Art Shartsis, an outside attorney who defended Alameda County, said, "This is an innovative ordinance where a county required a particular industry to take responsibility of a post-consumer use that is dangerous to dispose of."
He noted that similar programs are expected to launch in Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties and in King County in Washington state.
In a joint statement, the plaintiffs in the case said the pharmaceutical industry would "continue to actively work to educate consumers on the appropriate use of medicines, including providing information about safeguarding medicines in the home and promoting safe, secure and effective methods for disposal" (Inside Bay Area, 5/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.