Better Health Pharmacy Awarded $50,000 by El Camino Hospital Health Care District

October 8, 2019


SAN JOSE – Santa Clara County’s Better Health Pharmacy was awarded $50,000 by the El Camino Hospital & El Camino Healthcare District Community Benefit Program it was announced today.

The grant means, “We can help even more county residents access the drugs they need, absolutely free,” said Joe Simitian, President of the Board of Supervisors and Chair of the County’s Health and Hospital Committee. “Kudos and thanks to El Camino.”

Better Health Pharmacy (BHP), California’s first and only surplus drug redistribution pharmacy, has distributed more than 71,000 free prescriptions since August 2015, saving County residents $4.5 million in drug costs, and decreasing the amount of unused medication going into the waste stream. The programs uses donated drugs under strict protocols to “redirect” unused medications.

“Better Health Pharmacy has demonstrated the critical role they play in helping low-income individuals access much-needed medications,” said Barbara Avery, Director of Community Benefit at El Camino Health when speaking about the decision behind awarding Better Health Pharmacy $50,000. “El Camino Health is pleased to support Better Health Pharmacy for the second year in a row and help them expand their capabilities and efforts to improve the health of our community.”

In 2017, at Simitian’s urging, BHP doubled the amount of medication dispensed, and service hours have nearly tripled – from 16 to 42 hours a week – since the pharmacy opened its doors.

“Medication is the most cost-effective method of treating illness and improving health, yet one-fifth of adults don’t fill their prescriptions because of rising out-of-pocket costs,” says Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who has been pushing to safely recycle surplus drugs for more than a decade. “People shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent or taking their meds,” said Simitian.

Patients with a co-pay of $50 are four times more likely to abandon a prescription at the pharmacy than patients with a $10 copay, according to research by CVS Pharmacy, in partnership with Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

And, patients who have heart disease and cut back on medication are 50 percent more likely to have a stroke or heart attack, according to a 2011 report from the Mayo Clinic. Conversely, when medicines are given to patients who otherwise couldn’t afford them, hospitalization rates decline as much as 42 percent, according to a study in Pharmacotherapy Journal.

“We’ve got perfectly good unused medications on one side of town, and we’ve got folks desperately in need on the other side of town. It makes all the sense in the world to connect the two, and given its success, expand the program. It’s saving lives, and saving resources,” Simitian says.

Simitian became a champion of drug reuse while he was a state legislator. A group of Stanford medical students developed a “recycling” proposal and submitted it to Simitian’s “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Simitian, then a State Senator, introduced legislation addressing the “Recovery and Reuse of Unused Prescription Medicines” (SB798), which was adopted in 2005.

Managed by volunteers, including pharmacists as well as pharmacy, college, and high school students, BHP is “the best-kept secret in the Valley,” says Narinder Singh, Director of Pharmacy at Santa Clara County. “Through this program, we are able to provide an incredible service to our community, reduce waste and protect our environment.”

Santa Clara County was the first in the state to launch a surplus drug program, in 2008 at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, serving County health facilities. Recognizing the need for direct consumer access, the Board of Supervisors funded the remodel of a stand-alone space in San Jose, opening Better Health Pharmacy in August 2015.

“Better Health Pharmacy is a vital community resource,” agrees SIRUM Co-Founder Kiah Williams – even for residents with health insurance: “Of the people who skip their prescription drugs, half have insurance, but struggle with high co-pays or deductibles.” SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine) is the non-profit collecting drugs for reuse and making them available to the County.

“Better Health Pharmacy really is a pioneer, one that we hope can become a national model,” Williams adds. “It starts with the comprehensive health care provided at the county level. Santa Clara County owns the hospital, the trauma center for the region, and also has a set of outpatient clinics. It makes sense to provide medication on the front end to avoid emergency room visits and hospitalizations. It’s all about prevention.”

Additional information about the Better Health Pharmacy is available online at


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