On June 20, 2013, the Board of Health (Board) in King County, Washington passed the Secure Medicine Return Regulations (Regulations), establishing a program to collect and properly dispose of unwanted medicines from local residents. According to the Regulations, the program will be funded and operated by drug manufacturers whose prescription and over-the-counter medicines are sold for residential use in or into King County. Additionally, the Regulations require pharmaceutical drug wholesalers that sell prescription or non-prescription drugs in or into King County to submit a list of manufacturers of those drugs to the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program by October 25, 2013. Wholesalers are then required to provide an updated list annually by January 15th of each year. 

On November 27, 2013, four pharmaceutical industry organizations filed a joint lawsuit against King County, the King County Department of Public Health, and the Director of the Department alleging that the Regulations are unconstitutional. Alameda County, located in northern California, faced a similar lawsuit from the pharmaceutical industry. On September 30, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Alameda County's ordinance, and confirmed the authority of local governments to require drug manufacturers to fund the collection and disposal of their medicine. 

Because the lawsuit against Alameda County is similar to the King County lawsuit, the King County Department of Public Health (Department) has decided to move forward with implementing the Regulations. As such, the Department recently issued a notice stating that it has extended the implementation deadlines outlined in its Regulations. The new deadlines are as follows: 

  • Producers will have until November 14, 2014, to "(a) identify in writing a stewardship plan operator, including contact information, and (b) notify all retail pharmacies and law enforcement agencies in King County of the opportunity to participate as a drop-off-site and the process to form an agreement with the stewardship plan."
  • Producers will have until February 12, 2015, to submit a proposed stewardship plan and plan review fee.

For more information and to view the Regulations, please visit the Board's Secure Medicine Return Regulations' website.