The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to pass the nation's first ordinance requiring drug makers to pay for programs to dispose of expired and unused drugs.
Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley said the ordinance is needed because the improper and careless disposal of prescription drugs and the illegal re-sale of prescription drugs put members of the public, particularly children and the elderly, at risk of being poisoned.
In passing the measure, the board said another reason for the ordinance is that groundwater and drinking water "are being contaminated by unwanted, leftover or expired prescription drugs passing through our wastewater and treatment centers."
The ordinance requires drug manufacturers and producers to pay for the disposal of their products or face fines of up to $1,000 a day.
Alameda County residents currently can drop off their old medications at 28 drop-off locations but the program costs the county about $330,000 a year.
Miley said he thinks drug companies can afford to pay for the cost of disposing drugs because they generate $186 million in profits annually in the county. He said the projected cost of a comprehensive producer-funded program is about 1% of every $3 worth of pharmaceuticals sold in the
Miley said there currently aren't any mandatory state or federal programs to safely collect unwanted drugs and properly dispose of them but he
believes "safe and convenient medical disposal programs are one of the most effective solutions in preventing negative individual and environmental health impacts."