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IN-DEPTH: Iowa repository could be a model for drug donation program in Minnesota

May 15, 2019 07:06 PM

A lot of people have experienced the sticker shock that can come from buying prescriptions at the pharmacy.

But imagine going without essential medications because you can't afford them. It's a problem many patients face.

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It's why there's a push to start a drug donation program here in Minnesota.

RELATED: U of M pharmacy students petition lawmakers for drug donation program

In a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa, dozens of plastic bins sit full of unused prescription drugs.

A repository there has been operating for 10 years. It does not accept controlled substances or narcotics. But with everything it does collect, it is on track to distribute more than $8 million worth of free medication to patients this year.  

"We have collected these medications really in the last week," SafeNetRX Chief Executive Officer Jon-Michael Rosmann said.

The medications have been collected from community nursing homes and brought to the prescription drug repository - which donates them to other patients at no cost.

"These are all medications that are in sealed, tamper-evident packaging," Rosmann said. "Non-controlled medications and unexpired medications."


Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and the states in red below all have operating repository programs. Minnesota and the states in blue have laws on the books establishing a repository, but it is currently non-operational.  

Only 11 states, including South Dakota, have neither a law nor a program.  

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures


The repository was established to deal with the sheer volume of medication waste.

"In states where they do not have a drug donation program, we have heard of nursing homes where medications are actually wheeled into a bathroom stall and simply flushed down the toilet," Rosmann said.

The pills come in through donation. They are sorted on tables, then a pharmacist will come through and inspect every tablet. They then go into small bins to be distributed to patients.

Participating pharmacies pay nothing to be involved. All they do is go online and place an order. It's filled by a pharmacist at the repository, and sent back for free.

"Our largest demand for medications is from mental health or behavioral health," Rosmann said. "There is an incredible demand for these, and they are expensive, so they are often in shortage."

More than $8 million worth of free medication is expected to go out to patients in Iowa this year via the repository.

 
 

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Jessica Miles

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