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May 31, 2007
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Sarah Mason at (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that his SB 966, which puts in place a prescription drug disposal plan, passed the California State Senate on a 21-13 vote, with no margin to spare.  The bill now moves to the State Assembly for a hearing in June or July. 
Simitian said the hard-won victory in the Senate was “gratifying” and noted that, “Our state ought to have a coordinated, environmentally safe program for disposing drugs.  It’s as simple as that.”

One of the winning entries in Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be A Law Contest”, SB 966 requires large retail pharmacies to have a system in place by July 1, 2008 to collect and dispose of unused prescription drugs dropped off by consumers.  As Simitian noted, “Few consumers have the time or the inclination to carry through with American Pharmacists Association’s current guidelines for the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals, which involves crushing or dissolving the medication, mixing with kitty litter, sealing in a plastic bag then setting out with the trash.”  Most often drugs are either flushed down the toilet or thrown in the garbage where they pose a threat to the environment and contaminate our waterways. 

The United States Geological Survey conducted a study in 2002 sampling 139 streams across 30 states and found that 80 percent had measurable concentrations of prescription and nonprescription drugs, steroids, and reproductive hormones.  Exposure, even to low levels of pharmaceuticals, has been shown to have negative effects on fish and other aquatic species and may have negative effects on human health.

Alternatively, without a safe and effective method for disposal, prescription drugs may be left indefinitely in medicine cabinets where they pose a threat of potential prescription drug misuse or abuse.  “Teenage abuse of pharmaceutical drugs has been a growing problem in recent years,” said Simitian, “particularly notable in ‘pharm parties’ where kids grab whatever may be handy in the medicine cabinet at home.  Leftover drugs are an invitation to abuse,” he added.

“I’m pleased that Senator Simitian has introduced this important bill,” said Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste.  “The take back provisions of SB 966 will provide consumers with a safe and convenient way to dispose of drugs while helping to protect our water quality”
Rebecca Kassel, a 17-year-old Santa Cruz County high school student, and Mountain View resident Abe Binder were both concerned that consumers don’t have a safe and responsible way of disposing of their unused prescription drugs; that’s why they entered Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest.  “Right now, people throw their prescription drugs in the trash or flush them down the toilet, which contaminates our drinking water and harms marine life,” explained Kassel in her winning submission. 
Kassel provided testimony to the Senate Business and Professions Committee on April 23, noting that there needs to be a take-back program in California so that consumers have a convenient, effective method to protect the environment and appropriately dispose of medication.  Simitian called her “a compelling and persuasive witness on the bill.”

Simitian, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, previously addressed the issue of just what to do with prescription medication in his SB 798 two years ago.  That measure, also a winning proposal from his “There Oughta Be A Law Contest”, created a program to allow counties to recover unused prescription medications from skilled nursing facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and wholesalers and distribute them without charge to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.
“This simple, straightforward law ensures that we use the precious health resources we already have while increasing access to these life-saving medications for those who cannot afford them,” Simitian noted.  “But not all drugs are in a condition to be redistributed—some just have to be thrown away.  SB 966 is about giving folks an easy and environmentally sound way to do that.”
SB 966 is supported by a broad coalition of local governments, environmental groups and consumer advocates.

To learn more about SB 966, please visit