Pennsylvania prisons to redistribute unopened Rx drugs

    A new Pennsylvania proposal could put expensive, life-saving medicines to better use.

    A new Pennsylvania proposal could put expensive, life-saving medicines to better use.

    It might seem like a charitable idea, but in Pennsylvania, you can’t send back or donate your unused prescription drugs.

    Pat Epple leads the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.

    Epple: Current law does not let anyone take-back drugs and redistribute them because of all the safety concerns. If you just let that happen carte blanche that would compromise our entire drug supply.

    The rule applies to state agencies too, but that means many medicines sit on shelves and go to waste.

    The legislature has approved a bill that allows the Department of Corrections to redistribute unopened prescription drugs. The change could save the state about a million dollars each year.

    Epple says her group supports the bill because the corrections system is tightly controlled and oversight is very strong.

    Epple: The correctional institution receives the drugs from the pharmacy, in unit dose, in single dose packages. Even though it’s a prescription for a particular prisoner for 30 days, they are only dispensed one pill at a specific time.

    Pennsylvania has an existing law that allows hospitals or doctors offices to return unused cancer drugs to pharmacies, but Epple says liability and financial questions have kept the program from getting off the ground.

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