Lawmakers aim to reduce drug waste in pharmaceuticals

Following the findings of an investigation conducted by ProPublica, US legislators seek a solution to drug surplus. 

An example of drug wastage is the typical measure of prescription eyedrops, which is larger than the human eye can hold, and results in the liquid spilling onto the patients’ eyelid or down their cheek. This is because the packaging is over-sized and contains more than the patient needs.

ProPublica, which is a non-profit organisation in America, conducted an investigation into drug companies and their packaging. They found that many single-use liquid medicines are packaged in large containers, which often leads to wastage.

ProPublica’s findings led them to investigate research that was conducted by Alcon’s lab in the early 1990s. This research led to the creation of a 16-microliter drop, which is substantially smaller than the eyedrops that are on the market today. Results of Alcon’s study demonstrated that micro drops were just as effective at reducing eye pressure as the large drops, although the solution was never released to the market.

A spokesperson for Novartis, the company who purchased Alcon for $12.9bn in late 2010, would not discuss the micro drop study with ProPublica, but commented on the fact that the larger drops ensure patients get enough of the medicine in their eyes.

ProPublica’s investigation has prompted Lawmakers to introduce new legislation, the Reducing Drug Waste Act of 2017. This new bill would see the FDA and CMS produce a plan to achieve a solution in reducing drug waste and its cost to consumers. 

From cancer drugs to expensive eye-drops, many drug companies insist on selling their products in excessively large, one-size-fits-all vials that contain more medicine than the average patient needs. This is a colossal and completely preventable waste of taxpayer dollars, and it means American patients and hard-working families are paying for medication that gets tossed in the trash. Instead of allowing the pharmaceutical industry to profit at our expense, it’s time we put an end to this wasteful spending.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)




Health Economics & Outcomes Research


Market Access, Pricing & Reimbursement

Medical Affairs

Quality Assurance




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