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Turner Bill To Establish Prescription Drug Recycling Program Clears Committee

Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) testifies during today’s Senate voting session.

Redistributes Unused Prescription Drugs to the Poor and Uninsured

A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) that would establish a prescription drug donation repository program in New Jersey was passed by the Senate Budget & Appropriations Committee. The bill, S2615, would provide poor and uninsured New Jersey residents with affordable access to prescription medications.

“Health care facilities throw away millions of dollars in unused, prescribed medications each year,” said Senator Turner. “There is no reason why those medications shouldn’t be recycled instead, when we have so many low-income and uninsured residents who cannot afford the medications they need.”

The bill, S2615, establishes a prescription drug donation repository program with the state Department of Health. The program would allow for prescriptions that are in their original sealed and tamper proof packaging to be donated to a central repository for redistribution to authorized medical facilities and pharmacies. Medical facilities and pharmacies could then donate the medications to needy individuals with the same prescription.

According to a 2009 Associated Press report, healthcare facilities throw away an estimated 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals each year. New Jersey has no protocol for hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities to recycle prescription medications that go unused after a patient passes away or a doctor decides on another course of treatment for a patient. At least 38 states have established laws and programs for unused medicines to be redistributed to needy residents. The bill proposed by Senator Turner is modeled after a successful program in Iowa where $4 in donated prescriptions and supplies is received for every $1 that it costs to administer the program.

“New Jersey’s program has the potential to be highly successful, given the need in our state,” said Senator Turner. “In addition to providing affordable access to prescription medication, we can also reduce public health care costs by ensuring that those with chronic conditions receive the medications they need to help stabilize their health and rely less on emergency room care.”

“This type of program can be a real lifesaver to residents who cannot afford medication to treat cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and so many other diseases,” said Senator Turner. “This is truly a case where someone’s trash is another’s treasure, especially if the medication will help to improve their health and save their life.”

The committee approved the legislation by a vote of 11-0-1. The bill is now pending approval by the Senate.

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