These programs get unused prescription drugs into the hands of patients in need

Forty-four states have enacted laws allowing drug donations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many programs, such as the Colorado program, are small or underutilized. Now, Colorado and other states are looking to expand their approach.

Drug donation programs work. There is a huge demand for them. SIRUM co-founder George Wang said states have an opportunity to help their residents by enacting new laws. SIRUM, which stands for Initiative to Support the Redistribution of Unused Medications, is a nonprofit organization with the largest network of drug donors and distributors in the United States.

Colorado Senate Majority Leader Robert Rodriguez, a Democrat, said he plans to introduce a bill next year to create a drug donation program to help the estimated 10% of state residents who cannot get their prescriptions filled because of cost. .

Likewise, California signed legislation last year that would allow the expansion of Santa Clara County’s Better Health Pharmacy, the state’s first and only drug donation program, to San Mateo and San Francisco counties. Better Health’s managing pharmacist, Kathy Le, said the company is in the early stages of developing a similar program with other county pharmacies in California.

The Cheyenne-based Wyoming Drug Donation Program reaches residents through mail distribution, including those in remote areas of the state who may not have a local pharmacy, said pharmacist and project manager Sarah Gilliard. The program mails a total of approximately 16,000 free prescription drugs to 2,000 low-income, uninsured or underinsured Wyoming residents each year.

Access was definitely an important consideration in the design of our program, she said.

(Kate Rudd reports for KFF Health News)
Thank-you notes are pinned to the walls of the Wyoming Drug Donation Program in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Many participants in Wyoming’s plan are 65 and older, have Medicare and are on fixed incomes and cannot afford copays, but Girard said there has been a recent increase in participants between the ages of 20 and 40. Wyoming is one of 10 states that has not yet expanded Medicaid, which will cover more low-income residents, which could be a factor in the rising numbers, Girard said.

Donations came from all 50 states, with the majority coming from people who found the program online or through word of mouth. Sometimes donors tuck handwritten notes inside packages about the high cost of medication or memories of a loved one who has passed away.

Gilliard rescued each one and nailed them to the pharmacy wall.

Wyoming’s program has a central state pharmacy that receives, processes and mails prescriptions to residents, said Gina Moore, a pharmacist and senior associate dean at the University of Colorado’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Paintings can be models for Colorado. In Aurora. In December, Moore co-authored a task force report for the state on the feasibility of a drug donation program.

The report points to the success of externally funded programs, which in Wyoming’s case come directly from taxpayer dollars. Colorado’s drug donation program is expected to cost $431,000 in the first year to serve about 1,500 patients with one pharmacist and pharmacy technician, according to Wyoming’s budget.

In Colorado Springs, Martin and her husband Jeff Martin, executive director of Open Bible Medical Clinic and Pharmacy, believed a charitable, volunteer-run model like theirs was possible in Colorado, and they wanted to know how they How long-standing pharmacies operate will adapt to potential state-run efforts. In the task force report, Moore and her colleagues wrote that the state-run model and the Martins plan could coexist.

Since Colorado enacted a law allowing drug donations in 2005, the law has been revised several times in an attempt to help its growth. But the state has yet to put in the money or infrastructure to get the drug donation program off the ground.

Drug donations mailed to Open Bibles declined during the pandemic and are only now slowly rebounding. The pharmacy delivers about half of its donated medications to clinics across Colorado that serve uninsured and low-income patients in other cities, including Denver, Loveland and Longmont.

Elsewhere in the U.S., SIRUM ensures donors have packaging to ship donated medications and provides software to streamline inventory and distribution. Most recently, it built an instant online drug inventory for Good Pill, a nonprofit pharmacy that mails 90-day prescriptions to residents in Illinois and Georgia for about $6.

Le said SIRUM helps facilitate donations to California’s Better Health Pharmacy, which has distributed medications to 15,000 Santa Clara County residents since opening in 2015. Many are uninsured, underinsured and speak Spanish or Vietnamese. Better Health Pharmacy, which has 10 volunteers, often students, helping record donations, fills about 40,000 prescriptions a year and has annual operating costs of just over $100, according to county public health officials. Ten thousand U.S. dollars.

In addition to prescription medications, Better Health Pharmacy is offering free COVID-19 antigen testing and flu vaccinations to meet community needs. We try to come up with creative solutions to expand our range of services, Le said.

Monica Roy, assistant medical officer and communicable disease controller for the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, said this commitment to address health care access disparities and reduce environmental impact means expanding drug donation programs across California and beyond. The timing is right.

Roy said inequalities in access to health care have been magnified during the pandemic. When we have a solution like this, we take a step toward addressing equity and climate change in the same model.

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