Pharmaceutical stewardship ordinances to create convenient and secure medicine return systems have now been passed in nine counties:  2 in Washington State and 7 in California.  While such laws are common in other countries, including Canada, Mexico, France, and Spain, these laws are new to the U.S. and gaining momentum.

To help understand the policy trend and key developments, I recently posted a
Status of County Pharmaceutical Stewardship Laws – CEHStrategies.
This Update overviews the nine county laws, with a focus on the implementation status of the laws in Alameda County CA and King County WA.  More information about my experience and services developing pharmaceutical stewardship policies is on my Safer Meds page.

Medicine take-back programs are the secure and environmentally sound way to dispose of leftover and expired medicines.  Due to lack of resources, these programs are not available in all communities or cannot support enough convenient drop-off locations. Existing programs struggle for ongoing financing and are a burden on over-stretched local law enforcement, city, and county budgets.  To remedy the problem, some jurisdictions are adopting pharmaceutical stewardship policies that require medicine manufacturers to finance and coordinate secure drug take-back programs.  The programs will provide convenient drop box locations at pharmacies, hospitals and law enforcement offices for safe medicine disposal.

The FDA, DEA, and EPA all recommend secure medicine take-back programs as the best way to dispose of unwanted medicines, better than throwing medicines in the trash which is not secure and not the best solution for protecting our environment.

Nine counties have passed these laws, with more counties expected to follow suit.  And that’s not all – the City of Santa Cruz recently passed a similar local law, making it the first city in the nation to enact a pharmaceutical stewardship policy.  Read more about that recent development here.