Bottle of spilling medicine

The cost of prescription drugs can be extremely expensive and often times out of reach for individuals in need. Fortunately, there are programs that can help.

Mark Hardy, PharmD; North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, recently provided an overview of a program that helps with the intake and dispensing of medications in the state. The Prescription Drug Repository Program collects and distributes unused medications so pharmacies and physicians can dispense them to those who need them.

How did this come about? Nearly fifteen years ago, the American Cancer Society approached the board of pharmacy with the possibility of creating a drug donation and repository program in North Dakota. The program discussed and envisioned was one where the board of pharmacy would develop criteria for the establishment of the program and register voluntary participants for the intake of donated items as well as for the dispensing of items. As a result, on April 17, 2007 Governor John Hoeven signed House Bill 1256, authorizing the state Prescription Drug Repository Program. Since then, the program has allowed individuals to get rid of unwanted medications, avoid pharmaceutical waste that can harm the environment and provide others with medications at an affordable price.

How does this program reduce costs for patients? When a medication, device, or supplies are donated to the program, the pharmacy cannot resell the medication. Instead, the pharmacy may redistribute the medication at no charge or only charge a small dispensing fee. For certain medications, such as insulin, diabetic testing supplies or inhalers, the cost savings can be significant. A drug donated or dispensed under the program must be in the original, unopened package, except drugs packaged in single-unit doses, or punch cards, may be accepted and dispensed if the outside packaging has been opened and the single-unit dose package is unopened.

Those who choose to volunteer to participate in the dispensing of the donated drugs, are defined as either a practitioner or pharmacy that has elected to participate in the program and accept legend drugs, devices and supplies from donors for the program. Those who receive the donations are able to post the availability of the medications on a website, where both patients and practitioners can access the information. All drugs and supplies donated under the program must be inspected and all participating pharmacies and practitioners must register with the Board of Pharmacy as participants. Other safety checks are in place, including tracking of prescriptions dispensed.

The Prescription Drug Repository Program site offers information on eligible drugs for the program as well as participating pharmacies and prescribers.

As one participant commented, “this may be one of the best kept secrets. We need to continue to work together to get the word out on this important service as well as help individuals access resources for assistance when they cannot afford their medications.”

To find out what registered pharmacies or practitioners participate in the program for North Dakota, visit the North Dakota State Board of Pharmacy website. After scrolling down, an image for the Drug Repository Program will appear on the right hand side of the screen. Clicking on this image will take you to the program’s main page. From here, click on the “Search for a Donated Drug or Supply” or the “Search for a Participating Pharmacy or Prescriber.” Clicking on the name of the location displays all the medications they currently have on hand through the repository program. To look up a specific medication, go to the “Search for a Donated Drug or Supply” tab. Search by the medication’s name, and/or by a certain location to see if they have any current supply. The website also shows users the name of the medication, device, supply, strength of the drug and expiration date. Clicking on the name of the pharmacy participant again will bring up the store’s contact information.