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SB 798: Recovery & Reuse of Unused Prescription Medicines (2005)


SB 798 (2005) allows counties to recover unused prescription medications from skilled nursing facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and wholesalers and distribute them without charge to people of modest means who need the medications.

The bill ensures that all medications:

  • Are collected by and maintained under the authority of a licensed pharmacist.
  • Are received and maintained in their unopened, tamper-evident packaging.
  • Have not been adulterated or misbranded, and have been properly stored.
  • Have not been in the possession of any individual member of the public.
  • Are dispensed prior to their expiration date.

Final Status and Text

SB 798 is no longer active. Its final status was:
Signed into Law

You can read its final text on the Legislature's Bill Information site.

Background Information

Need for the Bill:

Rapidly escalating costs of prescription medications are increasingly putting needed pharmaceutical therapies beyond the reach of many of the state’s citizens.  At the same time, every year in California health facilities simply throw away hundreds of millions of dollars worth of perfectly good medications which were prescribed to someone but which never ended up being used, either because that person no longer needed or wanted the medication or because that person passed away.  Some of these medications can cost almost $30 per tablet.

SB 798 changes this wasteful system by permitting counties to collect and save these valuable health resources that would ordinarily be discarded and then dispense them to those who need the medications the most.  Recent advances in packaging, preserving, labeling, and verifying a medication’s integrity have given pharmacists new capabilities to ensure a medication’s safety.  Since 2001 at least nine states have enacted similar measures to end the wasteful disposal of unused medications, bringing health care savings of millions of dollars, and this year at least two other states are pursuing such legislation.  SB 798 would also help promote a cleaner environment by significantly reducing the amount of disposed medications that eventually enter our waterways and that can cause adverse health effects.

SB 798 brings together the diverse interests of health care providers, consumer groups, local governments, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and environmental groups to increase access to medications, stop wasting expensive, life-saving medications, protect the environment, and save cash-strapped counties millions of dollars.