Michigan is a step closer to joining 39 other states that will help make prescription medications more affordable, protect against drug abuse and keep medicinal ingredients out of the environment with a House committee's unanimous approval yesterday of bipartisan legislation sponsored by Reps. Joel Johnson and Jim Ananich.

House Bills 5089 and 5090 were approved unanimously by the House Committee on Health Policy.

"Today is a big step forward after more then a year of working with hospitals, pharmacists and doctors on these common-sense bills," said Johnson, R-Clare. "Together, we have developed an acceptable method to get vital medications to people in need while offering safe and consistent methods for disposal of excess prescription drugs."

The legislation is modeled after policies in other states which allowed unopened medications, which have never left medical hands, to be donated to participating pharmacies for redistribution to patients in need. Participating pharmacies would also serve as ongoing sites for residents to dispose of excess and expired drugs. The approach has multiple benefits, including greater access to critical medications for low-income families, reducing the threat of prescription drug abuse and related crime, and decreasing the amount of drugs entering our water systems by consumers flushing them or sending them to landfills.

"The unanimous, bipartisan approval in committee advances this important issue of what to do with unused prescription drugs," said Ananich, D-Flint. "We will continue working hard to keep more drugs out of the hands of kids and out of our land and water."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared prescription drug abuse as the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, with one of their recent studies finding that poisoning of young people aged 15-19 with prescription drugs as a factor nearly doubling from 2000 to 2009. Having safe, convenient methods for handling unused medications would limit the accessibility of potentially harmful drugs in our communities.

HB's 5089-90 are now before the full House for consideration.