Unused medication worth billions of dollars in ends up in the trash every year. For example, research shows medication worth over $3 billion is thrown out by hospitals every year, and an additional $2 billion worth is discarded in long-term care facilities. Medication in these settings often goes unused because a patient’s condition improves, they change doses, change care settings or die. Any unopened medicine not used by the patient must be disposed of.
Instead of disposing of the unused medicine, facilities in states with repository programs may donate it. By collecting unused prescription drugs and redistributing them to qualifying individuals, prescription drug donation and reuse programs, or drug repositories, aim to increase medication access, especially to underserved populations.
As of fall 2021, 40 states, Guam and Washington, D.C. passed legislation establishing prescription drug repository programs. Twenty-seven states and Washington D.C. have operational programs. Thirteen states plus Guam have laws enacted but no operational program. Operational programs are those with participating pharmacies, charitable clinics or hospitals approved by the state to collect and redistribute donated drugs. Twelve states—California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin—have more permissive programs related to cancer medications in addition to a general drug repository program.
Common obstacles to program success include: (1) requirements for participation may be overly burdensome, and may include limitations on types of entities that are eligible to donate and receive medications, (2) the potential increased administrative burden for participating agencies, (3) lack of financial resources and (4) a lack of public awareness of or participation in the program.