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Drug donation program rules finalized to help low-income Tennesseans

Source:; some rights reserved.

Thanks to the work of two Shelby County residents, low-income Tennesseans now have better access to prescription medication.

Last month the Tennessee General Assembly’s Joint Government Operations Committee approved rules to implement the Prescription Drug Donation Repository Program, which will help indigent or uninsured Tennesseans who cannot afford prescribed medications.

The innovative program is the product of efforts by Dr. Phil Baker (CEO-Good Shepherd Pharmacy) and was authorized by legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).

As required by the law, the Department of Health and the Board of Pharmacy worked to draft a set of rules for operation. These rules include eligibility requirements for participants and recipients, as well as the list of prescription drugs the repository program will accept.

“I am very pleased that the rules are completed and that this program will be helping those who need assistance with prescriptions very soon,” said Sen. Kelsey. “This program allows still-packaged, unexpired pharmaceuticals that right now are being thrown away to be donated to a repository program and redistributed to those in need. I believe it has the potential to help many Tennesseans receive needed medication.”

For the donation to be accepted, the drugs must be in the original sealed or tamper-evident packaging and within the given expiration date. The donated prescription drugs include cancer and anti-rejection medications but would exclude any controlled substances.

“The rules provide that a person, pharmacy or medical facility, as well as any licensed drug manufacturer or wholesaler, may donate drugs or supplies to the repository program,” added Kelsey. “This program will have various donors, including long-term care facilities who regularly dispose of medications.”

The donation must be inspected by a licensed pharmacist before being distributed to ensure it is not contaminated or misbranded. Because it is a donation program, the law provides civil and criminal immunity to donors or participants except in the case of gross negligence, willful misconduct or bad faith.

As adopted, the rules state recipients must be Tennessee residents who are uninsured with an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Recipients will receive an identification card which is renewed annually.

“I expect this program to take root, and I am hopeful that many people will benefit from the donations,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey represents District 31 in Cordova, East Memphis and Germantown and serves as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter at @BrianKelsey.