CA Develops a Drug Take-Back Program

California, namely the California State Board of Pharmacy (BoP), has made headlines for its efforts to identify all pharmaceutical items. Now the board wants to make some of those drug products indistinguishable.

The golden state is also a “green” state, given its various laws regulating waste disposal. Existing laws require the development of take-back programs for unwanted drugs. A proposed law from Senator Joe Simitian, SB 26 “Home-Generated Pharmaceutical Waste,” would require the CA BoP “to coordinate with other state agencies, local governments, drug manufacturers, and pharmacies to develop sustainable, efficient policies and programs to manage pharmaceutical wastes and the disposal of devices. The bill would authorize a pharmacy to accept the return of home-generated pharmaceutical waste.”

To discourage pilferage, diversion, and redistribution, the California BoP argues that such programs should include safeguards that render such waste unidentifiable to prevent reuse. Even pharmacists shouldn’t be able to identify returned drugs.
Model programs for taking back drug waste are under way at the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), but SB 26 would give control of such programs to the CA BoP. In February, Virginia Herold, executive officer of the CA BoP, wrote to the CIWMB. She explained that the CA BoP “remains greatly concerned with diversion of prescription drugs from these sites (whether in pharmacies themselves or at occasional community events) to pharmacies, where they will be redispensed to patients.”

Herold points to recent instances in which healthcare professionals have diverted drugs. Milton Cheung, a Washington State licensed pharmacist, collected drugs from doctors, clinics, and patients and redistributed them to customers at his drug store. Wayne Funk, a California psychiatrist, was accused of collecting unused narcotics from patients and dispensing them to other patients.

The CA BoP believes that SB 26 can be used to protect patients against such diversion. As of today, the bill remains in the senate appropriations committee. Some worry that California’s economic troubles may stall the bill.

Revised drug take-back procedures under the CIWMB continue to evolve. In her letter, Herold told the CIWMB that in such programs, collection staff should not review drugs before patients remove them from original containers and deposit them into collection devices.

CA BoP comments to the Drug Enforcement Administration on patient disposal of controlled substances offer a hint about what could be done with drugs collected in take-back programs. “The board suggest that drugs be deposited into collection bins by consumers, without their containers, and then pulverized or ground into an unidentifiable mass or mixed with fluid to prevent reuse (and destroy the attractiveness) of the collected drugs,” wrote Kenneth Schell, CA BoP president, in March. “This would render the aggregation worthless. . . . As stated previously, diversion and theft from unauthorized access to these bins remains a huge concern.”

As such take-back programs begin to take shape in California and perhaps around the country, proper identification of legitimately distributed prescription drugs through electronic pedigree and track-and-trace programs becomes even more critical.

This article was originally published in PMP News's July 7 ePackage Newsletter. To subscribe, click here.

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