Millions wasted on prescription drugs


Unused medicine at nursing homes is flushed, burned or thrown into the trash. ProPublica estimates tens of millions is wastes annually on drugs that are simply tossed out. And all that unused medicine could be going to people in need,

Two bags filled with perfectly good, unexpired medicine sits at the Ozanam Charity Pharmacy.

"And it's just going to go to waste?" asked Local 15's Andrea Ramey.

"And it's just going to go to waste. Yes," said Chief Pharmacist Annie Daniels.

It's not uncommon for people to donate bags of medicine to the charitable pharmacy in Mobile, but Daniels says, they can't use it. In Alabama, she says, once medicine has been dispensed to a patient, unused portions can't be re-dispensed to someone else.

"There is a lot of waste," said Daniels.

Thursday, ProPublica published a report called America's Other Drug Problem that highlights the waste specifically at nursing homes. According to the report, Colorado nursing homes throw out 17.5 tons of medicine, worth $10 million dollars every year.

"How frustrating is it when you know that there's millions of dollars in unused medicine just being thrown away and you have all these people coming to your door saying we need help?" asked Ramey.

"It is kind of frustrating," replied Daniels. "Especially with insulin. There is such a dire need for insulin, and it is so expensive. And there is a lot of insulin wasted in this country."

Daniels believe if regulations changed and controls were put in place, unused medicine in this state could be put to good use.

"I think with a lot of medicines that are pre-packaged, and have not been in a patient's hands, they could be reused," said Daniels.

The Alabama Nursing Home Association says it does not track how much medicine is thrown out yearly. In the ProPublica report, one nursing home chain estimated 20% of its medicine is discarded.

The full ProPublica report can be found here.

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