Putting Unused Medication In The Hands Of Those Who Can’t Afford Them Is Aim Of Becker Bill Signed Into Law

SB 1346 Allows Santa Clara, San Mateo & San Francisco Counties to Create A Regional Free Pharmacy To Help Those In Need

SACRAMENTO – Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties will soon be able to launch a regional free pharmacy to re-purpose the multi-million dollars’ worth of surplus medications  discarded every year now thanks to the Governor’s signature on SB 1346 (Becker).

“The goal here is to ensure unopened, unused and unexpired medications can be used to fill free prescriptions for people experiencing financial hardships and others in need instead of being thrown away,” said Senator Josh Becker (D-Peninsula).  “Studies show nearly 1 in 4 Americans skip doses or don’t get prescriptions filled because they can’t afford to.  That shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

SB 1346 updates a 2005 law allowing counties to collect unused and unopened prescription medications from licensed skilled nursing facilities, manufacturers and wholesalers to provide them to patients who cannot afford their medications.  The 2005 law enabled Santa Clara County to establish the Better Health Pharmacy (BHP) in 2010 as part of its safety net health services.

“Better Health Pharmacy is California’s first and only surplus drug redistribution pharmacy,” said Narinder Singh, the Santa Clara Health System’s director of pharmacy services. “Through this program, Santa Clara County can serve patients who cannot afford their medications, reduce pharmaceutical waste and provide an incredible benefit to our community.  Senator Becker’s bill will allow us to expand the program, which will increase medication access for all.”

From August 2015 to January 2022, the Better Health Pharmacy dispensed 152,039 prescriptions to patients, saving the county an estimated $8.5 million.  Nationally, the annual financial cost of discarded medications in skilled nursing facilities is estimated to be $2 billion, $100 million of which is in California.

“SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine) has been a proud partner in facilitating drug donations to Better Health Pharmacy over the past seven years, and BHP’s record speaks for itself,” said George Wang, SIRUM’s cofounder. “There is huge potential — and huge need — for more work to connect thousands of patients in need with surplus medication that is going to waste each year.  This bill helps make that expansion a reality and ultimately increase access to healthcare.”

SB 1346 passed the Assembly and the Senate on unanimous, bi-partisan 77-0 and 40-0 votes, respectively, and will take effect on January 1, 2023.

PRESS CONTACT:  Evan Goldberg at evan.goldberg@sen.ca.gov or (916) 616-9811