Two years ago, I wrote about the waste of pharmaceuticals caused by the inability of facilities and individuals to recycle unused medications. Now Colorado is taking a step towards alleviating the problem with Senate Bill 115. The Colorado Senate approved the bill last month, and now the House has approved it too, sending it back to the Senate for possible amendments. Senate Bill 115 allows licensed health care facilities to donate unused medications if a patient dies or is discharged, without having to obtain permission from the patient or the patient’s next of kin. The medications can be donated to other patients at the facility, or to nonprofits like Doctors Without Borders. Currently, the medications are destroyed – wasteful any way you look at it.
Senate Bill 115 specifically addresses the medical needs of the people in Haiti, and was written to make it easier for facilities to donate unused medicine to be dispensed by licensed pharmacists working in disaster areas. But I’m glad that the provision was also included to allow the facilities to transfer the medication to other patients as needed. Ultimately, I’d like to see us reach a point where medication waste is virtually eliminated. Tamper proof medication bottles that allow pills to be removed but not re-inserted, or a switch to only using blister packs for pills, could allow even partially used prescriptions to be returned to pharmacies for redistribution. And with the cost of prescriptions becoming more of a barrier between patients and needed treatment, the destruction of perfectly good unused medication seems like a travesty.