WINSTON-SALEM – Gov. Roy Cooper last week signed a bill amending North Carolina’s Drug Depository Program to broaden the availability of donated prescription drugs and allow free clinics to better serve people who are uninsured and underinsured.
Sponsored by Rep. Wayne Sasser, a Stanly County pharmacist, the bill was championed by the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NCAFCC) in an effort to make more drugs available to many of the 80,000 patients they serve across the state. Other sponsors included Representatives Bobby Hanig and Chris Humphrey. Sen. Tom McInnis presented the bill on the Senate floor.
House Bill 658 amends the law governing the conditions under which prescription drugs, supplies and medical devices can be donated to pharmacies and free clinics by allowing those facilities to now accept and dispense sealed, unadulterated medications that have not reached their expiration date. The new law is in effect.
Previously, drugs donated by hospitals, pharmacies, manufacturers, wholesalers, hospice care facilities and individuals were required to have at least six months remaining before their expiration date to be accepted. Now, donated drugs can be accepted and dispensed by free and charitable clinics within a few weeks of their expiration date. The law already contains safeguards to ensure no drugs past their expiration dates are accepted or distributed.
“This is a great example of common sense making its way through the legislative process to help thousands of people across this state,” said Randy Jordan, CEO of NCAFCC. “We hope this encourages more facilities and individuals to take part in our mission by donating their excess, unopened medications so we can provide better health care to those in need.”
Jordan said the law change will enhance free and charitable clinics’ ability to help people who cannot afford prescription medications. In 2018, the NCAFCC provided more than 1 million prescription medications, with an estimated retail value of more than $211 million, through their 89 clinics across the state.
“We’re thrilled with this opportunity to help more people and will immediately put the new procedures into place in our clinic,” said Tony Price, CEO of Moore Free & Charitable Clinic. “We no longer will have to turn away donors with perfectly good medications that can dramatically improve the quality of life for our clients.”
The bill passed unanimously in both the North Carolina House and Senate and the original concept was endorsed by the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy, which wrote in a letter of support that the measure “is likely to improve the public health and safety by increasing the pool of prescription drugs eligible for donations.”
“With more than 1 million uninsured people and many more underinsured in North Carolina, we felt a need to make this change to reduce the number of medications that are simply discarded and help many more people who can’t afford medications they need,” said Sasser. “This is a great example of a bipartisan effort to make a common-sense change to better serve our medically needy population.”