Can't give them away

"Can't give them away" Continued...

Issue: "Linda Chavez," Jan. 20, 2001

Other states, however, say the FDA letter is merely a guideline, not a law. At least 36 allow some form of drug recycling. In Louisiana, for instance, some 300 nursing homes voluntarily donate unused prescription drugs to indigent clinics. Asked if FDA regulations posed a problem there, Louisiana health department spokesman Bob Johannessen said, "I don't recall that having been a concern here."

State bureaucrats have another beef with drug recycling: They say it would cost more than it would save. State task forces assigned to study the issue in Texas and Oklahoma cited the extra cost and labor needed to collect, monitor, label, and redistribute unused drugs. The Texas task force told state legislators that such a program would not be "cost effective."

At least one member of the task force disagreed. "The millions of dollars being destroyed annually is increasing every year," said pharmacist Neil Libby, who served on the task force and, as a state surveyor, oversees 160 nursing homes. "At some point it will obviously be cost effective to recycle the medications," he said.

Meanwhile, drug-recycling proposals in Texas and Oklahoma remain stonewalled. Tulsa County Medical Society's Paul Patton compared the current debate to the price wars fought over milk several years ago. "I still remember the barrels of milk being poured out on the ground because milk producers couldn't get enough money for their milk," he said. "There were people in this country who needed that milk.... To me this is exactly the same situation."


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