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Background Information

Unused Medication Wastage:

  1. Financial cost of medications discarded annually in skilled nursing facilities
  2. United States: $2 billion4
  3. California: $100 million8
  4. Potential to salvage 10 million prescriptions worth ~$700 million2,3 

Need for Free Medications:

  1. About 23% of American adults miss doses or skip prescriptions due to cost4
  2. Restricted access to medications associated with5:
    • Worsened health outcomes
    • Increased risk of cardiovascular events
  3. Other possible consequences:
    • About half families filing for bankruptcies due to healthcare debt6
    • Over $18 billion dollars spent on Emergency Department visits that could be avoided7 Disposing of Unused Drugs Harms Our Environment and Our Health.
      Unused medication is currently dumped or burned and ends up in our waterways and our air. 


  1. Senate Bill 798/1329: Surplus Medication Collection & Distribution. SCVHHS Policy & Procedure. A7170-415. April 2013.
  3. Gorenstein, D. “The shocking cost of wasted prescription pills.” Marketplace. National Public Radio. Los Angeles, CA, 10 Dec. 2014. Radio.
  4. Morgan S, Kennedy J. Prescription Drug Accessibility and Affordability in the United States and Abroad. Commonwealth Fund. 2010; 89: 1-12.
  5. Heisler M, Langa K, et al. The health effects of restricting prescription medication use because of cost. Med Care. 2004 Jul;42(7):626-34.
  6. Himmelstein DU, Warren E, et al. Illness And Injury As Contributors To Bankruptcy. Health Aff. 2005: W5-63-W5-73.
  7. Choudhry L, Douglass M, et al. The Impact of Community Health Centers & Community-Affiliated Health Plans on Emergency Department Use. Natl Assoc Comm Health Centers. 2007: 1-18.
  8. Accessed 10/13/15.
Last updated: 8/22/2018 9:07 AM