Between Washington and California, the West Coast once again pushes the envelope in drug take-back legislation, while state action – which may level the playing field – has taken a backseat, waiting for the United States Supreme Court to determine whether to grant certiorari in Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), et al. v. County of Alameda.

At the end of December, the pharmaceutical industry petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse a September 30, 2014 Ninth Circuit appellate ruling that mandates that the industry pay for the County’s take-back program. On January 28, 2015, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed an amicus brief echoing the pharmaceutical industry’s allegation that the Alameda County ordinance requiring the pharmaceutical companies to finance the take-back program violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Eyed as a model program, other counties and states across the nation are closely monitoring this litigation.

Yet in the meantime, the city and county of San Francisco – following on Alameda County’s appellate victory – have since reintroduced extended producer responsibility (“EPR”) legislation, similar to that of Alameda and King Counties, that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to take part in a product stewardship program to collect and dispose of unwanted drugs, including paying for all costs associated with the program. The expansion of San Francisco’s program, which is currently voluntary (funded by PhRMA and Genentech), was introduced in October and has since been taken up by supervisors London Breed and Eric Mar. Last week, the Board of Supervisors passed to a second reading in two weeks. Other California counties, including San Mateo, also have drug take-back legislation in the works.

While California communities await the outcome of local proposed legislation, King County, Washington is moving full speed ahead with its drug take-back program. Two proposed stewardship plans, implementing King County’s Secure Medicine Return Regulations were submitted and will be reviewed and approved or rejected by the County by May 13, 2015. King County is currently accepting public comments on the plans; interested persons can comment here until March 19, 2015.

At the state level, California’s Senate Bill 1014 – introduced to create a mandated program for the collection of home-generated pharmaceutical waste – has died. We will have to wait and see if a new version of SB 1014 emerges in California’s 2015-2016 legislative session Action may not be seen until the Supreme Court decides whether to grant certiorari in the Alameda County case; if it does, the wait is likely to continue.