For oral anticancer medications that can be stored at room temperature, dispensing unused pills can save individuals up to $1,600 per year, researchers reported in study results published in JAMA Oncology.

The study included 1,071 patients receiving oral anticancer medications. Most treatments were targeted therapies (56.8%), followed by cytotoxic agents (22.1%), hormone therapies (13.2%), and immunosuppressants (7.9%). To ensure the quality of the returned drugs, researchers established conditions for the drugs to be redistributed: “Participants received oral anticancer drugs for use at home in special packaging (i.e., sealed packaging with time-temperature indicator), to be returned to the pharmacy should these remain unused.”

Of more than 13,000 drug packages dispensed to patients during the study, 335 unused packages were returned; of those, 228 packages met quality parameters and were redistributed, representing a 68% reduction in waste compared to standard disposal. “Redispensing unused oral anticancer drugs comprised 2.4% of total drug costs, providing mean net annual cost savings of U.S. $680 up to $1,591 per participant,” the researchers wrote.

Redistributing unused oral cancer medications is feasible and could amount to significant savings in costs and waste, “which in turn may improve affordability and sustainability of cancer treatment,” the researchers concluded.

Find out whether your state has a drug repository program that redistributes anticancer medications, and learn more about legislation ONS supports that would level the costs of oral and IV treatments.