Pharmaceutical Recycling 2: Rich Liability vs. Poor World Shortages

George Washington Carver Is Not Liable For Peanut Butter Allergies (he didn't even invent it)

In Part 1, I introduced this topic after opening a piece of mail telling us that a $500-something dollar epipen we own had reached its expiration date.  It made me curious whether the "obsolescence" of the pharmaceuticals equated to actual risk, and made me think about the different financial implications for wealthy, poor, stockholders, etc. And how the psychology of "greed and fear" is used as a persuader to advance the interests of those parties.  From Part 1:
In the case of an epi-pen, "less effective" is certainly a concern if you can afford a new one.  But if my kid starts to suffer a life-threatening peanut allergy reaction, I'm not going to check the date on his epi-pen.

What about "elective upgrade"? Can I sell my expired epi-pen, and buy a new one to satisfy my risk averse kin?  That reduces MY liability (to my son), but is my liability somehow "externalized" to poor people?
Hint:  No

But let's see how the Policy On Pharma Storage or Disposal (not recycling) is covering the exits.

By [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Should the FDA organize takeback and destruction of expired, unopened, unconsumed peanut butter to keep it from food shelves, where allergic people could be exposed?

The Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) National Take-Back Day for unused/obsolete/expired meds is a week from today, April 29.  The lions share comes from unopened and unsold goods at the pharmacies. The DEA's interest in taking used pharma pills off the secondary market is clearly not about peanut allergy epi-pens.  The opioid pandemic is real, and that's why DEA, not EPA, runs the national takeback. Resale of surplus amphetamines and painkillers is a whole different topic... more black market than gray market.

Since black market trade in painkillers is such a legal epidemic, I wondered if it has been better studied than the secondary market (gray market) in expired meds that are not toxic, not addictive, and maybe a lot better than nothing.

This morning I looked at the way the risk and liability (fear genes) had greater influence over wealthy people than the secondary market value of the commodity (greed genes).

As a former regulator, I had an epiphany.  If the regulator feels responsible for setting the "rule" on the resale of goods, they are in a fireworks show of cognitive dissonance.  Patent law, first use doctrine, lifecycle analysis, health consequences, data, property law, manufacturing interests, "focus materials"... the regulator must feel like a traffic cop at the Mississippi Delta of a trillion dollar second hand goods economy.

Does the regulator side on the fear felt by rich people, or on the demand and needs of the poor who, without the second hand device, have no hope of buying a new one?  Do they behave in the interests of Skippy Inc., reacting to risk that our second hand jars of peanut butter might be sold to a person with a peanut allergy, and rather than be sued we'll destroy the "date expiration" jars of peanut butter in our inventory (the way pharmacists destroy post-expiration epi-pens)?  Or do we feed the starving?

The Part 1 blog referenced a 2012 Science-Based-Medicine journal article by Scott Gavura, worth linking to again because medical ethics provide a basis for environmental ethics policy.  There is very little risk that expired medicine is bad for you.  Like expired "sell by" peanut butter, it doesn't turn into poison unless it's consumed by someone allergic to it.

And today this gives us insights into how Vermont Agency of Natural Resources sees the regulation of used electronics.  They are seeking to create an "expiration date" on products to enforce they will be pulled from the shelf and shredded, based on the word "focus materials", a term which appears neither in 40 CFR 260 (RCRA) rules (giving them authority to enforce federal laws) nor int Act 79 of the Vermont legislatures "E-waste" legislation.

The new Procedures being adapted to enforce 365 day inventory on anything with a cord basically says that by nature of the chemistry of circuit boards, that they must be regulated under waste laws. Because if they allow someone to sell a working computer that is more than a year old, they (the regulators) will be perceived as allowing it to happen.  So they need an "expiration date".

An expiraction date on antiques and vintage electronics... The Apple Lisa must be destroyed.

I will go more into the Vermont E-Waste Procedures in Part III.  For now, there's more to explain about the cognitive dissonance and difference of interests that cause "policy" around complicated stuff on the second hand market to be "controversial".  Peanut butter is less complicated, so perhaps there will be less alarm, despite the allergies and epi-pens that make it seem fraught with policy danger.

If industry can make consumers feel liable for selling, donating, or repurposing something that industry is selling, it's the Anti Gray Market Mind Game of the century.  If they can get regulators to feel a personal sense of guilt for not preventing the secondary market, by making them think about peanut allergies rather than starving people, less effective drugs rather than suffering sick and poor, and "ewaste" rather than emerging market telecommunications, they have something that shareholders from Putin to Xi to Trump will support.

It's a mind game play at the secondary market, using our fear of liability to drive mining and disposal.

Sentencing and imprisoning Joe "Hurricane" Benson for the crime of reuse gives us a glimpse of how horrible a direction we can be led, into environmental injustice, under the banner of social responsibility.

Chew on that.

(Oh, guess what I heard?  BAN is calling me a racist.)

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