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Ohio State James Cancer Hospital Launches State's First Drug Repository

The James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
The James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Thanks to a state rule change, Ohio patients are now able to donate unused cancer medications. Previously only unopened medications could be passed along to patients in need.

On Tuesday, officials from Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital announced a new program that will act as a kind of clearing house to connect needy patients with leftover medicine.

“These programs allow for the donation of unused medications to pharmacies, hospitals and nonprofit clinics to be re-dispensed to patients who cannot afford the cost of medications,” explains Ohio Pharmacy Board president Shawn Wilt. “The previous iteration of the rule only allowed for collection of unopened medication that was never in the physical possession of the patient.”

The hospital’s associate director of pharmacy Julie Kennerly-Shah says patients who want to donate would simply bring the extra pills to their physicians.

“There’s a short form that they fill out that they sign to officially attest that they didn’t tamper with the medication, but it’s a pretty simple process incorporated into their clinic appointment,” Kennerly-Shah says.

Pharmacists at the hospital will inspect the drugs to ensure they’re safe for the next patient, and the donated drugs will be stored separately from new medicine. The program is starting with two oral chemotherapy drugs, capecitabine and temozolomide, but hospital officials hope to expand the offerings soon.

“Our hope is that we would kind of have proof-of-concept, establish best practice with this program and expand it greatly to other medications, because there are certainly lots of other oral chemotherapies that our patients are in need of,” Kennerly-Shah says.

Tori Geib is living with stage four breast cancer and devotes her time to patient advocacy. She explains that with many treatment plans, getting insurance coverage for "off-label" medications can be tricky.

“There are some companies like Pfizer who have done amazing jobs in covering the actual brand name medication, but when you develop a generic for that medication, it’s not being covered,” Geib says. “Those generic medications will be covered through this program, and that’s a huge disparity for these patients that’s going to be addressed.”

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.