D.C. City Councilor Proposes Drug Donation Program to Help Needy Seniors

D.C. City Councilor Brandon Todd hopes to launch a drug donation program in his city.

D.C. City Councilor Brandon Todd hopes to launch a drug donation program in his city.

“I meet with about 400 seniors every month, and I’ve heard from a number of them about the fact that prescription drugs can be a huge financial burden for them” because of the deficiencies in medical coverage in the United States under Medicare, Medicaid, and even private insurance, said Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), a D.C. Council member.

That’s why he’s sponsoring a proposal for a two-year pilot program to put donated prescription drugs in the hands of people in the nation’s capitol who would otherwise go without. The plan would allow individuals, clinics, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies to donate unexpired, non-narcotic prescription drugs for redistribution, under the auspices of the D.C. Department of Health.

The program isn’t arising out of nowhere. Thirty-eight states have laws that specifically allow drug donation programs, but fewer than half of those states don’t actually have any such working programs. Neighboring Virginia and Maryland both do have operating programs, but Virginia’s only collects from select clinics, and Maryland only distributes through three pharmacies in the entire state and serviced only 250 people in 2016. The drugs typically donated are insulin and anticoagulants, often by the families of deceased patients.

Opponents argue that ensuring the safety of those served by the program would make it as costly or more than other state aid programs, but Todd and Anita-Bonds (D-At Large) who co-sponsored the bill with him argue that there isn’t enough data to support that supposition.

If the pilot program shows the idea isn’t feasible in the District, Todd said, that’s fine, but he said he wants the information from a test run of a program to drive that decision, citing the other states that have set up programs as proof that it isn’t impossible.

“I don’t buy that we can’t institute something,” he said.

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