Alameda County Approves Prescription Drug Disposal Plan

Drug Companies would have to Pay for Collection and Disposal of Unused Pharmaceuticals

Alameda County could become the first country in the nation to make drug manufacturers foot the bill for disposal of unused prescription drugs.

The county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to give preliminary approval to a proposal that would require drug makers to pay for collection and disposal of the unused and expired pharmaceuticals.

A Supervisor who sponsored the bill tells the Mercury News it's an important step to protect residents and the environment. He says Bay Area residents disposed of more than 60-thousand pounds of unwanted prescription drugs at 128 sites across nine counties. Alameda County accounted for roughly 4,000 pounds of the drugs collected. The cost of disposal ends up being shouldered by local governments, and ultimately, taxpayers.

Aside from the cost, the drugs also pose a health hazard, particularly for children. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley told supervisors at Tuesday's meeting, excess and expired drugs sitting in cabinets are a big temptation for kids, and can easily lead to abuse and overdose.

There's also the environmental concern. When prescription drugs end up in the trash, or getting flushed down a toilet, they can get into local water supplies. Municipal water treatment facilities are only equipped to handle biological impurities, not antibiotics, steroids and antidepressents.

The measure will be up for a final vote on March 13th. If passed, drug companies would have until January 1st, 2013 to come up with a plan for disposal. Companies that don't comply could face a fine.

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