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SF redirects surplus medications to public health clinics

Medications from patients no longer using them will soon be able to go to low-income clinic patients in San Francisco who are unable afford medications for chronic illnesses.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last Tuesday approved legislation and that will establish a Surplus Medication Repository and Distribution Program that will be overseen by The City’s Department of Public Health.

The program will bring in the Palo Alto-based non-profit SIRUM — a state licensed organization that helps facilitate the donations of medications to participating health clinics nationwide. SIRUM stands for Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine.

SIRUM is already working with Santa Clara County in helping to receive, manage and take inventory of medications from 200 donor organizations.

Organizations that will be eligible to donate medicines include licensed acute care facilities, skilled nursing care facilities, licensed pharmacies, licensed drug wholesalers and licensed drug manufacturers.

The legislation will allow city-owned pharmacies or contracted pharmacies, pharmacies owned by a community or free clinic, and community and free clinics to receive and dispense the donated medications.

The donated medicine must be unexpired, unadulterated, unopened and not be a controlled substance.

Before the program can operate, the legislation requires the director of public health to establish rules and procedures that meet state and local guidelines.

Supervisor Ahsha Safai, the main sponsor of the legislation, said at the board meeting that the medications would greatly benefit many clinics throughout The City:

“There’s a consortium of neighborhood health clinics all over San Francisco that will greatly benefit from this program.”

Safai has two health clinics in District 10 that would benefit from such a program, including the Mission Neighborhood Health Center and Clinic by the Bay.

Janet Riley, co-founder of Clinic by the Bay, who had brought the idea to Safai to start a program in The City, said at Sept. 26 Board of Supervisors Public Safety Neighborhood Services, that many of the patients that they serve cannot afford the ongoing costs for chronic health issues such as hypertension or diabetes:

“When you are uninsured like all of our patients are and you don’t have access to medications, getting monthly medications that you need to control these conditions is unobtainable for most of our patients.”

Riley added:

“When we learned about SIRUM, this organization that was matching excess medication with patients in need, we thought it was such a fantastic idea that we knew not only would it be incredibly helpful for patients at Clinic By the Bay but also for patients throughout San Francisco.”

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