What happens to all those unused medications?  Well, most unfortunately end up flushed down the toilet (out of sight out of mind) or thrown in the trash (ditto). Ultimately, the drugs end up in the ground water or ocean, only to be taken up yet again as we drink water, consume livestock which has been fed with tainted ground water and eat our organic veggies, which also have been watered with less than pure water. (By the way not the fault of the farmer, it’s just that almost all water nowadays is contaminated with drug residues).

Along come Alameda County supervisors, who last year approved a first-in-the-nation law, which required drug manufacturers to pay for collecting and discarding unused prescription drugs. For Alameda county this amounted to about $ 330,000 yearly.

Aghast at the possibility of being forced to pony up some money, the pharmaceutical industry, with over $300 billion yearly in drug sales, mounted a quick defense. However,  3 months ago, a federal judge rejected that request. stating that the county ordinance ” serves a legitimate public health and safety interest”. You can be sure that drug manufacturers will appeal this decision, not wanting to cut into their billion dollar plus yearly profits.

Who should be responsible for the disposal of prescribed medications? Battery manufacturers already pay for the disposal of their products, but makers of aluminum pop drink cans and plastic bottles do not.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of both the drug manufacturer, which has made a product toxic to the environment and therefore should be held at least partially responsible and the consumer (ie you and me), who purchase the drugs and benefit from them.

You can expect many cities and counties all over America to be carefully watching for the final verdict. While we’re waiting for the last appeal to be settled and in fact for always, we should be good citizens: Take the unused drugs (prescription or not) and dispose of them properly. Many pharmacies, doctors’ offices and hospitals have containers, in which unused medications can be discarded. You can call your county trash collector and find out where unused pills can be placed in an environmentally responsible fashion.