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Plan to save tons of unused Florida medications in the works

'Boxes and boxes and boxes of medicine'
Posted: 5:15 PM, May 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-23 18:17:58-04
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida is wasting tens of millions of dollars in unused prescription medicines each year, lawmakers say. But, there’s a bill coming that could change that.

Right now, state policy is that unused prescriptions which leave pharmacy doors have to be destroyed. That’s even if they’re sealed, unexpired and fit for use.

Guys like Tallahassee resident George Jackson, who lives on limited income and lacks health insurance, could benefit from access to that medication.

“I’m old,” Jackson said with a smirk. “I’m 61-years-old. Problems sneak up on you.”

Jackson lives at the Care Tallahassee facility, a Christian-based organization that helps return former male inmates to society. When a medical issue arises, he relies on public programs and his faith to get him through.

“God provides a lot for me,” Jackson said. “He provides everything I need. But— yeah— you could always use more help.”

A bill, planned for next session, could be that help. It aims to save literal tons of medicine that often pile up at nursing homes, correctional facilities, or mail-order pharmacies when patients stop using, die or relocate. Instead of getting destroyed, state lawmakers are looking to find a way to redistribute.

“Boxes and boxes and boxes of medicine that are perfectly safe,” said Representative Nicholas Duran, D-Miami. “They haven’t been tampered with. They’ve been reviewed and understood to be safe and good to use.”

Duran has been working on the recycle meds bill for a few years now. He tried to get it through the legislature last session, but says he ran out of time. It passed the House, but failed to make it to the floor of the Florida Senate.

“To believe that those medicines that are totally fine,” Rep. Duran said, “and cannot find a patient in the state of Florida— we’re looking to fix that.”

The policy would be modeled after one from Iowa. Since 2007, a nonprofit there, SafeNetRx, has been collecting unused drugs, inspecting and then redistributing them for little to no cost. The medications are specifically going to those with limited or no insurance.

To date, officials estimate they’ve helped more than 70,000, which equates to millions of dollars that would have been wasted, if not for the program. Some of that money coming from taxpayers, who fund Medicaid and Medicare programs.

But, to Jackson, it’s more than dollars and cents. It’s his health and he hopes change, and more affordable access to medication, is coming.

“I hope we’ve got the people in place now to start the process,” Jackson said. “If it don’t get started, it ain’t never going to get fixed.”