Your Health

El Camino awards $50K to county's drug redistribution pharmacy


Courtesy of the Mountain View Police Department
A Mountain View Police Department employee collects unused and expired drugs from a local resident and properly disposes of the pills at the agency’s drug takeback event Oct. 26. The county’s Better Health Pharmacy received a grant that enables it to redistribute surplus medications to low-income residents.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Better Health Pharmacy received a $50,000 grant last month from the El Camino Hospital and El Camino Healthcare District Community Benefit Program.

According to Joe Simitian, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and chairman of the county’s Health and Hospital Committee, the grant will enable the pharmacy to help more residents access drugs they need at no cost.

Better Health Pharmacy, California’s first and only surplus drug redistribution pharmacy, has distributed more than 71,000 free prescriptions since 2015, saving residents $4.5 million in drug costs and limiting the amount of unused medication going into the waste stream. The program accepts donated drugs under strict protocols and redirects the unused medications.

“Better Health Pharmacy has demonstrated the critical role they play in helping low-income individuals access much-needed medications,” said Barbara Avery, director of community benefit at El Camino Health. “El Camino Health is pleased to support Better Health Pharmacy for the second year in a row and help them expand their capabilities and efforts to improve the health of our community.”

In 2017, at Simitian’s urging, Better Health Pharmacy doubled the amount of medication dispensed. Service hours have nearly tripled since the pharmacy opened its doors in San Jose.

“One-fifth of adults don’t fill their prescriptions because of rising out-of-pocket costs,” Simitian said. “People shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or taking their meds.”

‘Best-kept secret’

Patients with a co-pay of $50 are four times more likely to abandon a prescription at the pharmacy than patients with a $10 co-pay, according to research by CVS Pharmacy, in partnership with Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Patients who have heart disease and cut back on medication are 50% more likely to have a stroke or heart attack, stated a 2011 report from the Mayo Clinic.

Conversely, when medicines are given to patients who otherwise couldn’t afford them, hospitalization rates decline as much as 42%, a study in the Pharmacotherapy Journal reported.

“We’ve got perfectly good unused medications on one side of town, and we’ve got folks desperately in need on the other side of town,” Simitian said. “It makes all the sense in the world to connect the two, and given its success, expand the program.”

Simitian championed drug reuse while serving as a state legislator. A group of Stanford University medical students developed a “recycling” proposal and submitted it to Simitian’s “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Simitian, then a state senator, introduced legislation, the Recovery and Reuse of Unused Prescription Medicines bill (Senate Bill 798), adopted in 2005.

Better Health Pharmacy is “the best-kept secret in the Valley,” said Narinder Singh, pharmacy director at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“Through this program, we are able to provide an incredible service to our community, reduce waste and protect our environment,” she said.

For more information, visit betterhealthrx.org.YOUR HEALTHEl Camino awards $50K to county’s drug redistribution pharmacyA Mountain View Police Department employee collects unused and expired drugs from a local resident and properly disposes of the pills at the agency’s drug takeback event Oct. 26. The county’s Better Health Pharmacy received a grant that enables it to redistribute surplus medications to low-income residents.

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