We dispose of more than $5 billion worth of medications per year, but is there an alternative to throwing out medications? Sometimes it is possible to give them away. Before you do, it is important to know that the selling and distribution of medications are strictly regulated by State Boards of Pharmacy and other state and federal laws. These laws prohibit you from selling or giving away any prescription drugs.
You may be able to donate these medications to a group who will take unused medications and re-dispense them to needy patients.
In addition, the rules are very restrictive about when medications can be donated. There are some non-profit organizations, like SIRUM and various state-specific programs, that will accept medications. However, the reality is that only a small fraction of medications can be given to other patients. Donation programs are rarely useful if you simply want to protect your local water supply or clean out your medicine cabinet.
After screening and approval, the medications will go to community clinics and charitable pharmacies for redispensing.
Medications are carefully monitored and regulated in the U.S. to assure purity and safety. The major concern with re-dispensing medication is lack of assurance that a medication that has been in somebody’s medicine cabinet is still safe and has not been tampered with or even replaced.
There are a limited number of ways to donate medication. Programs tend to only accept medications in their original packaging. Most states will also restrict the medications that can be donated.
Both donors and donation organizations are usually protected from liability, but some organizations may require the donor to sign a form or waiver.
Every state can make their own rules about donation and receipt of medications, so there is some state-to-state variation.