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ConsumerWatch: Palo Alto Startup Prevents Waste Of Medications

PALO ALTO (CBS 5) - A new Peninsula startup company is providing a vital connection between unused, donated medicine and uninsured patients who need it.

Sirum, run by volunteers and Stanford University Students, created an online system that allows health facilities to donate unused medication to county-operated pharmacies. The pharmacies in turn give the medication to uninsured patients for free.

"One report came out of Stanford University Medical School that showed health facilities in California are destroying about $100 million worth usable medicine every year," said Sirum co-founder Kiah Williams.

According to Williams, Sirum helped redistribute over 230,000 pills by the end of 2011.

Nurse Deane Kirchner, who handles thousands of medications every month at Lincoln Glen Manor Nursing Facility in San Jose, was the first health facilities to join Sirum. According to Kirchner, the health facility destroys thousands of medications every month.

"When a medication order is changed, or if a resident goes home or if they pass away, we have this medication that we can't use anymore," she said.

Legally the medication can't be given to another patient or sent back to the pharmacy, so Kirchner said they have to pay to have the medication professionally incinerated.

"It's really very said," she said.

Under California law, the startup can only recycle medication that's unopened from health facilities, manufacturers and wholesalers. Individuals can't purchase the recycled medication. The medication can only be given to county-operated pharmacies.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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