Donated Oral Chemotherapy Medication Saves Lives
Three years ago, pharmacist Alexander Quesenberry didn’t have a means for patients to donate or receive unused chemotherapy. Today, thanks to a new state law, Quesenberry can request donated medicine from Good Shepherd Pharmacy, a Memphis nonprofit that provides donated medicines to those who cannot afford prescription medication.
“Oral chemotherapy treatments can cost $30,000 or more a month,” said Quesenberry, pharmacy director for the Baptist Cancer Center. “The idea behind donated medications is twofold — they help people in the Mid-South give back and they can save or extend lives.”
A Groundbreaking New Program
In October 2018, Tennessee became one of the first states in the country to establish donation programs for unused prescriptions from individuals. Phil Baker, founder and CEO of Good Shepherd Pharmacy, was instrumental in crafting the new law. Good Shepherd now accepts oral chemotherapy medication and anti-rejection medication for organ transplant patients.
“Many of the donations are focused on high-cost oral chemotherapies,” said Quesenberry. “Cancer treatment is becoming more oral-therapy based. Yet, as oral therapies continue to become more accessible and easier for patients to take, the side effects remain significant.”
Some patients cannot tolerate a given dose of oral chemotherapy and need to transition down to a lower dose to reduce their side effects.
”If their dose changes, patients are left with excess pills they can’t take,” said Quesenberry. “In other cases, the cancer may progress, or patients may pass away, and families don’t want to waste their loved one’s expensive medication. Donation programs offer a solution.”
Leftover, Unwanted or Expired Medications
Many unused chemotherapy pills remain tucked away in medicine cabinets—and a large amount of expired medication ends up in the trash. Medical professionals like Quesenberry advocate for safe medication disposal at participating pharmaceutical drop-off locations.
“Expired chemotherapy medications should not be thrown away with your household trash,” said Quesenberry. “It’s still considered hazardous and should be disposed of properly. If you have oral chemotherapy pills that are unopened and not expired, consider donating them.”
As awareness around the donation program grows, Quesenberry hopes it will help reduce waste and provide a safe pathway for patients to obtain much-needed prescription medications. Individuals who want to donate or join the medication wait list can visit Remedichain.com.
“The next step is to increase our amount of donated medications,” said Quesenberry. “It’s an exciting program, and we’re hopeful that it grows and benefits many people. Fortunately, there are few patients who don’t have access to prescriptions, but every now and then it happens. This gives them that opportunity to get the medication they need.”