Drug redistribution?
March 4, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

How can I recycle expensive drugs that I no longer need or are in excess of my needs?

In my particular example, I have been shipped (in error) insulin well in excess of my needs, some of which I will not be able to use prior to the expiration date. The provider can't/won't take it back due to state law. Since the cost of a vial of this stuff is over $100 to someone without insurance, I'd like to be able to gift it to someone in need. Any ideas? My state has no legal provisions for this.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Your endo will know someone who needs it
posted by spasm at 12:00 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Okay, I know this is going to sound crazy but do you know if dogs take the same insulin as humans? When our diabetic dog died, we donated the left-over insulin and syringes to a local dog rescue group, and they were grateful to receive it. So maybe check that out?
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:28 PM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

You can't legally give it to anyone intending to use it. Sorry.

You would be receiving a package with (X) many vials and distributing (<X) many vials to someone else. That is all kinds of legally not ok.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The legality of donating prescription drugs is a rabbit warren of conflicting and often stupid laws.
posted by wnissen at 1:42 PM on March 4, 2012

Seconding spasm. Your doctor has patients who have trouble paying for this.
posted by beagle at 1:57 PM on March 4, 2012


I would be concerned that, since you are not a pharmacy or medical professional, you could get in some kind of trouble. There are great reasons why physicians, pharmacists and pharmacies require licenses and inspections and so forth. You're not in any position to certify reliably how the meds have been stored, whether they've been adulterated, whether they're real, whether your teenage son messed with it for laughs and the vial in fact contains Diet Sprite, etc.

As laudable as your intentions are, there are good reasons why dispensing medications is heavily regulated!
posted by jayder at 3:24 PM on March 4, 2012

When I was doing IVF (as a donor), the drugs were worth thousands of dollars per vial. While we were not legally able to donate anything from opened packages, it was legal to donate unopened packages (my doctor accepted them back and gave them to patients in need). Unopened vials from opened packages, on the other hand, were not accepted by the doctor, but easy to give away to people through other routes.

The IVF forums I was active on frequently had people giving medication to each other, but I think I would have only been comfortable doing so if I had known the person a while (online or offline) and felt relatively sure they were legit. I would have hated to think I had contributed to someone on-selling the drugs on the black market, or taking them without a doctors' supervision.

So yeah, try to find someone you know, preferably in real life, but maybe via a web forum, and donate them privately if you feel comfortable with that.
posted by lollusc at 4:01 PM on March 4, 2012

Oh, and it probably depends on what happens to the meds if they are stored improperly. In my case, storage at the wrong temperature meant they were less likely to work, but not that they would be dangerous. The chance of them not working was something people getting them for free were willing to take in exchange for free meds. But if it could mean they were dangerous, and in the case of insulin not working, I guess it would mean that, that's a different consideration.
posted by lollusc at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2012

Depending on where you live, and the type of insulin it is, your insulin may not actually BE a prescription drug, so giving it to someone (ideally through your endocrinologist or doctor) may not be any more illegal than giving someone aspirin. Many forms of insulin are over-the-counter drugs, not prescription, depending on where you are.
posted by biscotti at 4:43 PM on March 4, 2012

Even distributing aspirin can be a legally fraught endeavor.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:17 PM on March 4, 2012

I second dog rescues. I send all sorts of meds from passed on hospice patients to rescues, via the next of kin of course, but so many cardiac and diabetic meds are the same for dogs and people...
posted by yodelingisfun at 10:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

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