Waste Program Engages Big Pharma for Drug Take Back


Shareholders are asking energy companies to acknowledge the risk that their carbon assets may be stranded.

As prescription drug abuse continues to present a serious public health risk, our Waste program is unveiling a new initiative pressing pharmaceutical companies to take responsibility for safe disposal of unused and expired prescription drugs and accessories like needles and syringes.

More Americans die from drug overdoses than from car crashes each year. In 2013, overdoses from prescription pain medications killed 16,000 Americans. President Obama recently prioritized this issue, saying, “Most young people who begin misusing prescription drugs don’t buy them in some dark alley – they get them from the medicine cabinet.” Because no convenient disposal options exist and flushing drugs down the toilet is no longer recommended by authorities, many consumers hold onto drugs they no longer need, making them available for abuse by others.

Lack of convenient disposal programs has been linked to poisoning of children and pets; misuse by teenagers and adults; seniors’ health problems from accidentally taking the wrong or expired medicine; water pollution from flushed medications; and threats to sanitation workers handling improperly disposed needles. It’s time for this growing public health concern to be addressed.

Major pharmaceutical companies should be paying for the safe disposal of drugs they put onto the market, but so far they’ve refused to do so. When Alameda County in California developed a take-back program that required drug makers to pay for it, pharmaceutical companies sued the county. They eventually lost, but have continued to stall on developing and financing a national take-back program.

We have started to engage three large drug makers, AbbVie (a spinoff of Abbott Laboratories), Johnson & Johnson, and Merck, and have already filed the first shareholder proposals on this topic for the coming proxy season. To learn more about this work, visit www.asyousow.org/pharmaceuticals.