Federal court upholds groundbreaking drug-disposal law

October 2, 2014

A federal appeals court upheld an Alameda County, California ordinance that requires drug manufacturers to pay disposal costs for unused medications.

A federal appeals court upheld an Alameda County, California ordinance that requires drug manufacturers to pay disposal costs for unused medications.

The ordinance is the first in the nation, and was challenged by the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Those opposing the law claim it illegally shifts local costs to out-of-state producers and interferes with interstate commerce.

DEA expands drug disposal options

In upholding the ordinance, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the ordinance treats all manufacturers equally and imposes no substantial burden on interstate businesses.

 

The ordinance “applies to all manufacturers that make their drugs available in Alameda County - without respect to the geographic location of the manufacturer,” Judge N. Randy Smith said in the 3-0 ruling. “Given that the ordinance applies across the board, it does not discriminate at all.” 

Smith estimated that the ordinance would cost pharmaceutical companies about $1.2 million annually of the $950 million a year in sales collected each year in Alameda County.

Arthur Shartsis, a lawyer for Alameda County, said the pharmaceutical companies pay for the additional costs by raising prices in Alameda County by one cent for each $10 in sales.

“The pharmaceutical industry has the lobbying power to stop these kinds of programs at the state level. It does not have the power to stop them at the county level,” Shartsis told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The ordinance was approved two years ago, but has not been implemented. Those opposing it could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.