U of M students hope lawmakers approve medication repository funding this session

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At the state office building on Valentine's Day, pharmacy students from the University of Minnesota made special candy deliveries.

"We have some medication vials filled with M&M's wrapped up with some ribbon and information on our bill, which is the funding for the medication repository," said University of Minnesota Pharmacy Student Eva Carlson.

A prescription drug repository is a place where nursing homes, long-term care facilities and wholesalers can donate unused medications.

Drugs are inspected and sorted and then redistributed to patients in need, for free, or at a reduced cost.

Last year, Minnesota lawmakers approved the concept, a new bill this session would fund the operation.

"Legislators on both sides of the aisle have been very receptive to this program and the students who are driving it, so we are encouraged," said State Representative Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield.

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Lippert said the repository will provide affordable medications and reduce waste.

"There are cancer drugs that are extremely expensive and it's an absolute shame that they go to waste, those could be made available, so there are all kinds of possibilities with this program," he said.

The repository would cost $450,000 each of the next three years.

"We just need the funding to get some people hired and then we can get going," said Carlson.

She said it would likely be in Austin, Minnesota, where Sterling Pharmacy is based.

"They have an old clinic space they are not using so they have offered it to us to house the repository, so all the medication will come in to us, we'll do the sorting and safety checks and then they will go out to patients throughout the state, most likely by mail," Carlson said.

Carlson said they've got partnerships with clinics and long-term care facilities, bringing in a good supply of medications.

Now they just need lawmakers to approve the funding.

"We were hoping to get this started this spring, we are being really ambitious, or hopefully by this summer, the sooner the better for sure," she said.