The pharmaceutical industry – represented by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, (“PhRMA”), the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the Biotechnology Industry Organization - is challenging an Alameda County, California ordinance that requires the pharma industry to be responsible for running — and paying for — a program that would allow consumers to turn in unused medicines for proper disposal. Drug companies have to submit plans for accomplishing it by July 1, 2013. The pharma industry filed its lawsuit on December 7, 2012.
Such take-back programs exist; however, most existing programs are run and paid for by local or other government agencies.
Supporters of the ordinance argue that the industry that profits from the sales of these products should have the financial responsibility for proper management and disposal. In other words, this law does not really enact new programs. Rather, it shifts the burden of these programs from taxpayers to the pharmaceutical companies.
The pharma industry counters that the law is unconstitutional. PhRMA’s general counsel, James Spears, asserts, ““They are telling a company in New Jersey that you have to come in and design and implement and pay for a municipal service in California. This program is one where the cost is shifted to companies and individuals who are not located in Alameda County and who won’t be served by it.”
Mr. Spears said it would be best left to sanitation departments and law enforcement agencies, which must be involved if narcotics, like pain pills, were to be transported.
Alameda’s ordinance is based in part on on the system in British Columbia and two other Canadian provinces.
This should be an interesting case to watch. On balance, we suspect the ordinance will ultimately be upheld. From our perspective, there is really nothing unconstitutional about the law. If a company based in New Jersey can sell its products in Alameda county there is really no hardship is operated a disposal program there.
The original complaint may be found here.