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Frustration with Drug Companies Continues for Santa Monica County Supervisor
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

November 21, 2016 -- A proposed County ordinance could be back in play that would require pharmaceutical companies to fund a disposal program to stop medications and syringes from polluting Santa Monica’s beaches, among other goals.

County officials have been unhappy with the pharmaceutical companies' campaign to encourage people to properly dispose of theses items.

The companies had promised to conduct the campaign after the County Board of Supervisors decided against approving the ordinance in June ("Santa Monica Group Says County’s Decision on Syringe Policy a 'Setback," June 20, 2016).

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose district includes Santa Monica, criticized the effort that has included the creation of a website and placement of ads on buses ("Santa Monica’s County Supervisor Rips Drug Companies," October 26, 2016).

Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the Department of Public Health's interim health officer, graded the companies' effort with an F during a presentation to the board on November 1.

Representatives from the companies defended their campaign during the meeting, saying it was only in the beginning stages.

"We believe it's imperative to provide the industry with a responsible amount of time to show the results from the public education program as opposed to quickly switching back to the mandatory ordinance," said Rachael Horning from the Los Angeles County Business Federation.

Carlos Gutierrez from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association told the board that at least a year was needed.

He added this his group's interaction with County health staff has been "adversarial," and they were "wanting to really nitpick the campaign."

It does not appear that Gutierrez will be getting that requested year, at least not if Kuehl has anything to say about it.

She and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have placed an item on this week’s agenda calling for County staff to do further analysis on the original ordinance in consultation with "technical experts" and report back their findings within 120 days.

"Qualified academics, researchers and scientists should be engaged to evaluate the efficacy and evidence associated with the issues presented by the proposed or similar ordinances as they relate to health, water quality and other issues to allow the board to adequately opine on appropriate next steps," Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas wrote.

A supporter of the ordinance almost from the start, Kuehl opposed the board's decision in June to allow the outreach program as an alternative.

She said at the June meeting that she looked forward to the report from County health officials on the status of the outreach program that would show "how weak it is, how ineffective it is and how much more we need."

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