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August 30, 2012

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Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – Today, the State Senate passed a bill by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) that would make it easier for surplus, unopened medication to be donated to uninsured Californians. Senate Bill 1329, passed out on a 38-0 vote, is now headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval.

Senate Bill 1329 builds on previous Simitian legislation (SB 798, signed into law in 2005), which for the first time allowed California counties to establish drug redistribution programs.

Every year, billions in unused medicine and supplies are wasted in the United States. Senate Bill 1329 allows a greater number of health care facilities to donate surplus, unopened, unexpired medications to Californians in need; permits non-profit community clinics and certain pharmacies to receive the donated medications; and makes it easier for county boards of supervisors or county public health officials to initiate a drug redistribution program.

“This is a creative, commonsense way to get perfectly good medicine – medicine that might otherwise be thrown out, or dumped in our water supply – into the hands of the people who need it the most,” Simitian said. “This is particularly important during this tough economy when many Californians are struggling.”

The bill is sponsored by SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine), a nonprofit founded at Stanford that is dedicated to streamlining the medicine donation process. Since 2009, drug redistribution programs in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties coordinated by SIRUM have helped thousands of uninsured patients and redistributed 230,000 pills with an estimated value of $600,000. SB 1329 takes the next logical step and expands the pool of suppliers and recipients.

“Every day, perfectly good, unused medications get tossed out on one side of town, while somebody down on their luck does without the medicine they need on the other side of town,” said Simitian. “What a waste. If we can just connect the dots, we can eliminate waste, save money, and help folks who are doing without.”

“Since SIRUM was started in 2009, we’ve seen first-hand the difference we’re able to make when we put medicine that otherwise would be thrown away to good use,” said Kiah Williams, a co-founder of SIRUM, which has developed an online platform to connect drug donors and pharmacies. “We think we could make an even greater impact if we were able to expand the pool of suppliers and recipients and make it easier for counties to get involved.”
SB 1329 builds on previous Simitian legislation.

Simitian’s earlier legislation allowed skilled nursing facilities and drug manufacturers to donate unused medications and allowed county pharmacies to dispense the donated drugs to the underserved free of charge. The idea for the bill, from a group of Stanford medical students, was a winner in Simitian’s 2005 “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. After the law proved its worth over the last half dozen years, Simitian said he hoped to “building on the success of the program” to date.

The Governor has until September 30 to act on the measure.

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