Pharmaceutical bills are deadBy Clea Hersperger | March 27th, 2009 | Category: Blog, Politics |
By Sound News Reporter Clea Hersperger
We live in a “prescription happy” society, and now are seeing those pharmaceuticals enter our environment and hurt the ecosystem. Two bills tried to address the problem, but both are now effectively dead.
Why did these bills fail?
There were three important and largely unanswered questions. Questions like: how are these pharmaceuticals getting into the environment? What amounts of drugs actually go unused and unwanted? What are the costs and benefits of spending resources on these programs?
Brandon Houskeeper, policy analyst and director at the Washington Policy Center, said: “most people would agree they’re coming from humans, and most are a result of us excreting the drugs after we use them… there’s a well recognized industry report that PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) put together confirming this.”
Arguments against the program in House Bill Report HB 1165 also explained that: “most drugs get into the environment through human metabolism. A small percentage of drugs get into the environment from the disposal of unwanted drugs.”
The second question follows, how many drugs actually go unwanted each year? According to the House Bill Report, there is no hard science to definitively answer this question.
“There are studies from both sides that are clearly in conflict with one another,” explained Houskeeper. “The pharmaceutical industry claims it’s as little as 3%… proponents of this legislation say it’s as much as 50%… and it’s one of the things that we argue we simply don’t know… there needs to be more research to identify what quantities go unused… before you can regulate it.”
What benefits could there be from removing unwanted drugs if we don’t know how many unwanted drugs are actually out there, and if they are a real problem?
The final question stands: what are the costs and benefits of spending resources on this particular program?
“It’s hard to gage what the costs would be,” said Houskeeper. “If you look around the States, every program is so different from what was being proposed here, it would be hard to project the costs.”
Both bills suggested a program with largely unpredictable costs and uncertain benefits.
Arguments in the House Bill Report against the program suggested prescribing people smaller quantities. Then people could try out new medications to see how they worked, and would have less to throw away in the end.
Rather than just reduce the amount of a drug prescribed, why not also reduce the actual number of prescriptions written?
See my first blog on Pharmaceuticals in Puget Sound.