January 18, 2022

New law allows donation of unused medication in Illinois. But it could take some time to get started.

[Excerpted from Chicago Tribune]

Free and charitable clinics with pharmacies may also benefit from the new law. Such clinics, which give uninsured and underinsured patients free services and medication, already receive donated or low-cost drugs, but typically only from pharmaceutical companies or nonprofits that are licensed to distribute medication, such as Americares. The new law will broaden who can donate drugs, potentially giving free clinics more supply.

Director of Development and Communities, Laura Ciresi Starr

Free clinic CommunityHealth, which has locations in West Town and Cragin, distributes about 30,000 prescriptions each year, said Laura Ciresi Starr, the clinic’s director of development and communities. But it can sometimes run short on items such as asthma inhalers. When that happens, clinic staff must often help patients fill out applications to participate in drugmakers’ patient assistance programs, through which they can get free or discounted medication, but that can take time.

“In some instances, like the inhalers, currently we are not able to provide as many as we would like or as what might be prescribed,” Ciresi Starr said. “We simply can’t afford to buy every individual inhaler.”