The Michigan House approved bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that will help provide affordable prescription medication to patients in need, protect against drug abuse and keep medicinal ingredients out of the environment.

House Bills 5089 and 5090, sponsored by Reps. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Joel Johnson (R-Clare), allow pharmaceutical companies and doctors to donate unopened medications for redistribution through pharmacies, as well as creating expired and excess medication disposal sites at participating pharmacies.

Johnson said "the medicine cabinets and closets in our homes have a tendency to fill up with unused and no longer needed medications over the years that can cause unnecessary dangers and temptations or others. Implementing this state law would help make it as natural to return old medications to the pharmacy as it is when we bring the doctor's prescription in to pick them up when we are sick."

The legislation is modeled after policies in 39 other states. The primary benefits of enacting a similar program in Michigan include another option to deliver critical medications for low-income families; the risk reduction of prescription drug abuse and related crimes; and even decreasing the amount of drugs entering groundwater systems through flushing them down household plumbing or sending them to landfills.

Ananich said "it's crucial for the health and well-being of our state that these drugs are kept out of the hands of our children, as well as off the street corners and back alleys." He added "not only can our society suffer from these leftover prescription drugs, but our precious land and water resources can be put at risk when the medications are not disposed of properly."

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.

HBs 5089-90 are now in the Senate for consideration.