Bill Proposes National Pharmaceutical Take-Back Program

Date: October 3, 2011

Source: News Room

A bill has been introduced that would create a mandatory, industry-financed national take-back program for the return of unused pharmaceuticals. The Pharmaceutical Stewardship Act of 2011 (HR 2939), introduced Sept. 15 by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), would create a nonprofit private corporation that pharmaceutical makers and brand owners would join and which would design industry-funded programs to take-back drugs in counties and municipalities across the country. "The need for a safe drug disposal system has never been greater," Slaughter said in a press release, adding that the bill would "help solve this serious environmental, public health, and public safety concerns by providing Americans with a convenient way to safely dispose of unneeded prescription drugs."

Under the bill, manufacturers and brand owners would be required to either become part of an EPA-approved national program or other EPA-approved programs comprising one or more drug makers or sellers. Collected pharmaceuticals would be incinerated. The programs would be funded by participating companies and fines of up to $50,000 per day from those who fail to do so.

Slaughter referred to the situation as a "Witch's brew of pharmaceuticals entering and contaminating [the] nation's waterways and putting public safety at risk." Among the groups backing the bill is the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), which says in a Sept. 19 press release that drug companies are already providing successful take-back programs for their customers in Canada and several European countries, in some cases for nearly a decade. PSI compares H.R. 2939 to other product stewardship initiatives that have "already been successfully implemented at the state level in the U.S."

The EPA has already released its own draft guidance under the Clean Water Act (CAA) to limit the impact to water quality from drug disposal, "Best Management Practices for Unused Pharmaceuticals at Health Care Facilities," which lays out prescriptive measures for hospitals to reduce the influx of drugs in wastewater.

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