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Policy

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Nation’s First Prescription Drug Take-Back Law

Legal Challenge: Pharmaceutical makers lose case against California county’s ordinance requiring them to fund local collection and disposal program

by Cheryl Hogue
October 3, 2014

A federal appeals court last week upheld the nation’s first law requiring pharmaceutical makers to pay for collection and disposal of unwanted prescription drugs. Seeking to overturn the 2012 ordinance adopted by Alameda County, Calif., were three industry associations: the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization. They argued that the county’s ordinance illegally interferes with interstate commerce by, as PhRMA says, “off-loading the costs of a local take-back program onto out-of-state consumers and businesses.” But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit disagreed. It unanimously found the ordinance applies equally to all manufacturers that make their drugs available in Alameda County, which borders eastern San Francisco Bay. The ordinance imposes “producer responsibility” for environmentally sound disposal of pharmaceuticals. The county adopted the ordinance to prevent illegal resale of and poisoning from unwanted drugs and to protect drinking water sources from contamination with unused or expired drugs that get flushed down the drain. In the wake of the decision, PhRMA says it is reviewing its legal options.

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