Bill to allow some pharmacies to redispense HIV drugs goes to Alabama House

Pharmacies that dispense HIV medications for or in HIV clinics would be able to redistribute certain unopened drugs under a bill that the House Health Committee approved unanimously Wednesday. HB 138, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, now moves to the full House.

Current regulations prohibit HIV clinics from sending back medications, Todd said, even if patients do not show up for treatment. Clinic doctors say there are ample opportunities to use unclaimed, unopened drugs for other patients, but state regulations do not permit unauthorized redistribution of such drugs. Without the changes proposed in HB 138, pharmacies must continue to destroy those drugs.

Todd’s bill would allow pharmacies to redispense the medications to other patientsand would set strict control measures on handling and oversight of the drugs. State law already allowscounty jails and prisons to redispense unused prescription drugs and gives oncologists theauthority to use unclaimed cancer drugs for other patients.

Arise and other consumer advocates last year urged Gov. Robert Bentley to support this policy change as his Medicaid Pharmacy Study Commission met to look at ways to reduce costs in the state’s Medicaid drug assistance programs. Advocates said the change would reduce waste and improve cost-effectiveness. Funding for most HIV medications comes from federal sources to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program at the state Department of Public Health.

The Legislature will return Thursday for the 14th of 30 allowable meeting days during the 2014 regular session, which is expected to last until early April.

By M.J. Ellington, health policy analyst. Posted Feb. 12, 2014.