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Family Efforts Brought Legalized Drug Donations



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Programs that permit the donation of good, unused drugs to the needy owe their existence to the lobbying by families of patients. It all began 10 years ago with Garry Beltz, who owns a ceiling tile cleaning business near Akron, Ohio. After his wife, Karon, died of breast cancer in 1999, he was determined that the last evidence of her disease—$6,700 worth of prescription drugs—be put to good use helping others in need. "I took the medicine back to the hospital to ask if they would give it to someone at the cancer center," Beltz says. "They said it was against the law."

Frustrated, Beltz began lobbying his state representatives to change the regulations. A few years later, in 2002, his efforts paid off when the Ohio General Assembly  passed "Karon's Law," which became the first law in the U.S. to allow donations of unused medications to a repository. Since then, Beltz has been integral to the adoption of similar legislation in numerous other states. "I went from not knowing who my legislator was to being a very effective lobbyist," Beltz remarks.

Wisconsin's Barbara Scavone became similarly dedicated after losing her husband, Nick, to cancer in 2003. After giving his unused drugs to a relief organization in Afghanistan—at the time, medicines could be donated overseas but not domestically—she worked with the American Cancer Society to lobby for "Nick's Law." The Wisconsin legislature passed its drug repository bill in 2004.

These ground-breaking efforts and continued work by Beltz, who helped get similar laws passed in other states, have led to the widespread adoption of repository laws. Currently, 37 states have legislation permitting the donations.

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