The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has heard oral argument in an appeal challenging an Alameda County, California law that requires pharmaceutical companies to fund the environmentally safe disposal of unused drugs. Pharm. Research & Mfrs., of Am. v. Cnty. of Alameda, No. 13-16833 (9th Cir., argued July 11, 2014). In August 2013, a federal district court denied the summary judgment motion filed by industry interests, finding that the law did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. They claim that the law imposes an unfair burden on out-of-state drug makers and essentially makes them responsible for a local garbage problem.
According to a news source, the three-judge appeals court panel appeared skeptical of the argument, with one judge disagreeing that the ordinance shifted costs to interstate producers and noting that it “shifts the costs to all producers. It just so happens that the majority are in other states.” The county, which currently operates some 30 drop-off sites, reportedly estimates the cost of collection and disposal at $500,000, while the companies estimate the costs of compliance at $1.2 million. See SFGate, July 11, 2014.