Minnesota could create repository for unused prescription drugs

January 10, 2019 06:28 PM

Hundreds of thousands of pills are prescribed to patients each year across Minnesota.

And experts say tons of those prescription drugs and medical supplies go to waste, disposed of by patients unable to use them.


But Minnesota could be on the verge of saving them for use by others.

Find places to dispose of unused medication in Minnesota

"We know, in our settings, there is medication that is destroyed all the time," said Patti Cullen, the President and CEO of Care Provider of Minnesota - a group that boasts 365 long-term care facilities as members serving thousands of people, including many seniors.

So what happens when those patients die, or their drug regimen changes?

"The majority of time they are flushed," Cullen said. "In most communities, that is the preferred method."

Cullen estimates 29 tons of drugs are wasted in Minnesota each year, costing $16 million.

"We see the day-to-day waste in our settings and say 'Man, this is a really good opportunity to make sure we don't waste medication,'" she said.

It's why her organization supports a medication repository - a place for unused, unopened and not tampered with medical supplies and drugs to be donated and dispensed to other patients free, or at a minimal cost.

"It would be far, far less expensive for people to go through this program than buying a medication that might be $100 - even $200 or more," said Cody Wiberg, Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.

Wiberg said lawmakers approved a repository more than a decade ago, but it was too restrictive - taking only a few cancer drugs. And care facilities didn't find it worthwhile to participate.

But language in a new bill this legislative session could change that.

If it passes, Wiberg said there would likely be one central repository, possibly at a Twin Cities hospital, with many satellites throughout the state.

"It helps people who literally might be facing life-threatening conditions with no way to purchase the medications they need," he said.

With plenty of bipartisan support, Wiberg and Cullen hope the bill will be approved and up and running a year from now.

"In my mind, I think it's common sense," Cullen said. "I don't understand how someone could be opposed to it." 

In all, 21 states nationwide have active prescription drug repositories.

Iowa operates a successful repository, and other states have similar programs.

Wisconsin 's drug repository went into effect in 2005. Patients can drop off unused medications at participating pharmacies or medical facilities.

The closest pharmacy to the Twin Cities that participates in the program is the Marshfield Clinic Pharmacy in Rice Lake.

Iowa operates a successful drug donation repository, and there are other states with similar programs including Wisconsin.

See more information on that program below.

North Dakota has a statewide repository currently operating, but South Dakota does not.


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Jessica Miles

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