Policy Analysis | March 2008

Prescription Drug Reuse and Recycling

Jeremy Williams

As the cost of prescription drugs climbs, more of the nation's officials and consumers are weighing how to salvage at least $1 billion worth of unused drugs that are being flushed down the toilet each year.

Though the Food and Drug Administration generally forbids the redistribution of prescription drugs once they are dispensed to consumers, states are free to set their own policies for drugs controlled by nursing homes, long-term-care centers and other pharmacies.

Thus, states have begun to pass legislation to create programs that curb the expensive waste of reusable resources. While the principal argument for these programs is the cost savings to both indigent patients to whom the drugs are often redistributed and the families of the patients who are able to return the medications, there also is a growing concern over the environmental hazards of disposing of prescription drugs in landfills or water systems.

Strom, Stephanie. "Old Pills Finding New Medicine Cabinets." The New York Times. May 18, 2005.
SLC research of Southern states' legislation.