The City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a landmark bill that requires pharmaceutical companies that sell medications locally to finance and manage the collection and safe disposal of unwanted drugs from residential sources. The ordinance, San Francisco’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) law for pharmaceutical take-back, creates a long-term solution for the disposal of both over-the-counter and prescription medications. From here, the ordinance will be sent to Mayor Edwin M. Lee, who is expected to sign the ordinance; it becomes law after 10 days if no action is taken. EPR is a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for its product extends to the post-consumer management of that product and its packaging. The new law makes it mandatory for pharmaceutical companies to provide for the convenient and safe collection and disposal of drugs, while promoting such product stewardship programs to their wholesalers, retailers, and local residents via outreach and marketing campaigns.

The passage of this ordinance comes after a multi-year fight for pharmaceutical EPR in the City. In 2010, San Francisco government leaders introduced the nation’s first drug take-back ordinance, a proposal that was put on hold when PhRMA and Genentech agreed to fund the City to create a voluntary pilot collection program.  “The approval of the San Francisco Drug Disposal Ordinance will allow City residents access to safe and convenient pharmaceutical take-back sites, keeping unwanted drugs out of waterways and helping to eliminate drug abuse,” said Scott Cassel, Chief Executive Officer at the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI). “The passage of this ordinance amplifies the growing tide of EPR legislation being passed around the country in multiple industries, and holds manufacturers responsible for the post-consumer management of their products.”

The new San Francisco law follows passage of similar EPR pharmaceutical laws in Alameda County, California (2012) and King County, Washington (2013). It is expected that the passage of the San Francisco ordinance, combined with the efforts in King and Alameda counties, will continue to spark the introduction of similar legislation around the country. PSI has advocated for EPR laws on pharmaceuticals since 2007, developing model legislation and EPR program elements. PSI also successfully worked with a multi-stakeholder group to change federal requirements to provide more convenient collection opportunities for controlled substances.   

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