The county supervisors came a step closer Tuesday to adopting an ordinance to require drug producers to pay and operate a drug take-back program. For six years, the eight prescription drug take-back bins scattered countywide have been perpetually packed.
The program, known as Operation Medicine Cabinet, is overseen by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Four times a year, deputies drive to Los Angeles to properly discard of the estimated 1,000 pounds of pills (in containers) swelling the bins. But a year ago, the supes started to look into requiring pharmaceutical companies to fund their waste management, like mattress stores and paint companies are required to do under state law.
County supervisors Doreen Farr (who brought the issue up last year), Janet Wolf, and Salud Carbajal approved the proposed ordinance. Supervisor Peter Adam — concerned it would increase drug prices — dissented; Supervisor Steve Lavagnino abstained after expressing mixed feelings.
After the proposed ordinance returns to the Board of Supervisors once more, drug producers of both brand name and generic drugs will have about a year to create stewardship plans that fulfill requirements defined by the county’s Public Health Department. The plans must include chosen disposal waste sites; there are locations in Los Angeles, Texas, and Maryland.
Ultimately, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson believes drug producers statewide should fund secure drug disposal programs. This year, she introduced a bipartisan bill — SB 1229 — that would grant pharmacies immunity from civil lawsuits if they took reasonable steps to ensure safe disposal of pharmaceutical waste. The intent is to encourage pharmacies to voluntarily set up drug take-back bin programs.
In recent years, Jackson carried bills that would have required drug manufacturers to set up a statewide drug disposal program, but they stalled in committee after facing opposition from — among several others — Generic Pharmaceutical Association, which represents prescription drug distributors.