Free Drug Donation Pharmacy Opens in California


California's first surplus prescription medication program recently opened its doors.

California’s first surplus prescription medication program recently opened its doors.

Better Health Pharmacy is dedicated to collecting and dispensing unused, unopened, and unexpired medications from state-regulated facilities to patients for free.

Up until now, these drug donation services have been housed in the Santa Clara Public Health Department Pharmacy. The program has dispensed more than 8700 prescriptions and generated a savings of more than $400,000 since the initiative began in 2015.

From the program’s new home in San Jose, California, patients in need will be able to obtain their prescriptions at no cost and without co-pays.

Drug donation pharmacies are a practical response to the increasing need for free or low-cost medications. Nearly 23% of US adults report missing or skipping prescriptions altogether solely because of cost.

In a press release, Pharmacist-in-Charge Khanh Pham, PharmD, said the new space will allow Better Health Pharmacy to “dispense a wider variety of medications, [and] we hope [it] will help us serve more county residents at this pharmacy.”

While most medication types are eligible for distribution, California laws prevent the nonprofit pharmacy from dispensing certain controlled substances, including pain and anxiety medications like acetaminophen/hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycontin), and acetaminophen/oxycodone (Percocet).

Better Health Pharmacy and other charitable drug initiatives are improving access to essential medications for low-income, uninsured patients in the United States.

One such organization called the Dispensary of Hope has collected more than $150 million in medications from both manufacturers and health systems since its founding in 2003.

Dispensary of Hope CEO Christopher Palombo, MA, MSHM, FACHE, told Pharmacy Times that participating manufacturers and health systems are motivated to donate by moral imperatives and economic incentives.

“The reality we explain to manufacturers [and other donors] is it’s weird to destroy something while there are uninsured people who otherwise wouldn’t have the medications they need,” he said.

Palombo asserted that there is “absolutely no opportunity cost” to donating the drugs.

The potential impact of charitable drug distribution is substantial. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 30 million individuals will remain uninsured after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, and internal calculations from the Dispensary of Hope suggest that there are billions of dollars in surplus medicines each year.

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