History

In 2017, students at the University of Minnesota came together to create and pass state legislation to get the state's first real drug repository program off the ground which required

It didn't get much attention, but Minnesota lawmakers passed a plan in 2019 to set up a program to take unused medication destined for a flush or the landfill and instead distribute it to people struggling to afford their medicine. This is when RoundtableRx was born.

Twenty-one other states already have programs similar to RoundtableRx, and they're already pulling in millions worth of unused medications. Iowa, which the Minnesota program is modeled after, has managed to repurpose nearly $18 million of medication over the last decade.

Minnesota previously had a version of a drug repository that was narrowly focused on medication for cancer patients, but it wasn't successful. The law was written in a way that was so restrictive that the few hospitals that expressed interest quickly realized there were almost no drugs that they could take back, said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. "With the increase in drug prices over the last five or six years, you're once again starting to get people who can't afford their medication," he said. "There's more of a need for it now."

The unused medication generally comes from long-term care facilities. Drugs there are packaged by pharmacists in single-use blister packs, which usually contain enough medication for two to four weeks. But if a patient's prescription changes or if someone dies, the packets don't get fully used. Under the new law, those facilities could instead send the unused pills to RoundtableRx, where they would undergo safety checks. They have to be in tamper evident proof wrapping. They have to be room temperature. They can't be a controlled substance. They can't be in vials and they can't be expired. Once they're cleared for use, the drugs can be distributed to people struggling to afford their medication.

 

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Illustrations by Jaye Ahn