SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee has endorsed legislation that would force drug manufacturers to help the public safely dispose of unwanted medications. Drug companies would also have to foot the bill for the program.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

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Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi brought the measure to the board’s public safety committee.

“Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to treat drugs that end up in the sewer system,” he declared.

Mirkarimi proposed demanding that drug companies pay the costs associated with the collection and safe disposal of unwanted medications that otherwise might be flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd questioned the city’s ability to regulate drug disposal.

“The local city and county Board of Supervisors is in way over its head,” he warned. “This is a long arm that the eleven of us think that we might have that I don’t think we do.”

“I entirely disagree with that,” Mirkarimi responded.

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The debate over Mirkarimi’s proposal extended into the public comment period, where drug manufacturers faced off against environmentalists.

“This is the type of proactive action needed to stop pollution at the source and is essential to truly protect our water resources,” one woman offered in support of the legislation.

“Many complex chemicals such as those in pharmaceuticals are so persistent that even the most sophisticated treatment can not remove them,” added Jen Jackson, who spoke on behalf of Bay Area Pollution Prevention Group.

“Generics have razor thin profit margins and generic manufacturers cannot afford to absorb the cost,” a man countered.

Another critic described Mirkarimi’s legislation as ill conceived.

“Pharmaceuticals that end up in the water supply are the result of patients taking those drugs, they’re not metabolized and they are excreted,” explained California Health Care Institute’s Michael Hawkins.

Mirkarimi’s legislation advanced from committee, and was sent to the full board for consideration.

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