New home for trashed prescription drugs?

October 23, 2008 5:58:54 AM PDT
This summer Eyewitness News showed you how the Department of Corrections trashes your tax dollars by throwing away valuable prescription drugs. An anonymous whistleblower sent us pictures and a letter saying the DOC throws away hundreds of thousands of dollars of medication every month.

    Steve Daniels: Does it add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a month?
    Janet Brown: There's no record of the amount of money that we send for destruction.
    Steve Daniels: You're not tracking it.
    Janet Brown: Correct.

Janet Brown runs the DOC Central Pharmacy. According to records from the Wake County landfill, the pharmacy sent nearly a ton of waste to the dump between February and June. That's about 460 pounds of medication a month.

    Janet Brown: When you look at what very small percentage is returned each day in comparison with the greater than 4,000 orders that we dispense daily it is a very small percentage.
    Steve Daniels: You're saying you're sending a lot of stuff out there and your getting just a small percentage back.
    Janet Brown: Correct.
    Steve Daniels: And a small percentage of that goes to the landfill.
    Janet Brown: Exactly.

"I'd rather them throw them in our pharmacy," says Dr. Susan Weaver. She runs Alliance Medical Ministry, a non-profit clinic for the poor and uninsured in Raleigh. She says as long as the medication is individually packaged or sealed, it could be helping people instead of ending up in the trash.

"Let us use those," says Dr. Weaver. "We have over 6,000 patients now, with capacity to go to 20 thousand, think, think what we could do with that volume of medication. It would be hugely beneficial to our patients and cost effective for the community as a whole," continues Dr. Weaver.

Dr. Weaver says the clinic relies on donations to provide to provide medicine for patients in need like David Walters.

"I think there's a lot of people out there that really needs it," says Walters. He started coming to Alliance Medical Ministry when he couldn't afford his medication. "Some of the meds that I would have had to have were hundreds and hundreds of dollars and being that I lost my job, and I didn't have medical insurance it really put me in a bind," says Walters.

Dr. Weaver says the DOC could be helping a whole lot of people by donating medicine bought with tax dollars instead of sending it to the dump.

"If you can eliminate waste and increase care to the uninsured at the same time, how could that be anything but a winning situation?" says Dr. Weaver.

The DOC says because the drugs are bought with state money they can't just give them away or sell them as surplus. The DOC says it would take special legislation or the legislature would have to step in to create guidelines that would allow them to donate the medicine. The DOC has also changed its policy and sends medicine to a company that disposes of the drugs instead of sending them to the landfill.

If you have a tip that you'd like Eyewitness News to investigate send us an email at investigates@abc11mail.com.


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