That's what most nursing homes do. When a resident dies, moves out or no longer needs a particular drug, the drugs are discarded even though they may still be useful and could help someone else. Thirty-nine states had passed laws that allow the donation of these drugs. But almost half of the states with laws lack programs to get the drugs safely from one appropriate user to another, and many of those that do have programs are focused on cancer drugs.
There are no nationwide statistics that are kept, but the waste is substantial. Colorado officials have said the state’s 220 long-term care facilities throw away a whopping 17.5 tons of potentially reusable drugs every year, with a price tag of about $10 million. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2015 that about 740 tons of drugs are wasted by nursing homes each year.
Iowa does have a law allowing the reuse of drugs. The annual costs of their program are $600,000. In fiscal 2016 the program recovered and distributed drugs valued at about $3.4 million.