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February 24, 2012

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


SACRAMENTO – Every year, more than $9 billion in unused medicine and supplies are wasted in the United States. At the same time, studies show that more Americans are going without prescription drugs because of costs.

A new bill introduced by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) would address these two problems by making it easier for surplus prescription medication to be donated to uninsured Californians.

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 donated medications; and makes it easier for county boards of supervisors or county public health officials to initiate a drug redistribution program.

“Instead of throwing out perfectly good medicine, or worse, dumping it into our water supply, this bill will allow us to get it into the hands of people who need it the most,” said Simitian. “We’re preventing waste, preventing pollution, and helping Californians who are struggling more than ever in a tough economy.”

Simitian will unveil his new legislation from 4:30 to 6 p.m. today at Stanford’s Haas Center for Public Service, 562 Salvatierra Walk, Stanford, California. The legislation will be introduced at a reception hosted by SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine), a non-profit founded at Stanford that is dedicated to streamlining the medicine donation process.

“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 expand the pool of suppliers and recipients and make it easier for counties to get involved.”

Senate Bill 1329 builds on previous Simitian legislation. Senate Bill 798, signed into law in 2005, allowed counties to establish a drug redistribution program; 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.

Since 2009, drug redistribution programs in Santa Clara and San Mateo County 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 program further.

“In the six years that have passed since the original legislation took effect, the drug redistribution program has more than proven its value,” Simitian said. “This bill takes that next step, and makes changes that will make it even more successful. At a time when the state and counties are strapped, and many Californians are struggling, this gets drugs that would otherwise be wasted to the people who really need them. It’s a clear win-win.”




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