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Feb 19, 2012

Interesting Psak: Throwing Away Medicine

Among the variety of gmachs that one can find in a religious neighborhood is a medicine gmach. These medicine gmachs carry basic medicines and needs, so that if someone should suddenly run out and not be able to get the pharmacy right away, or if one suddenly needs something during the night, he could get it from the gmach. He might later have to replace the medicine he took, or some gmachs might require seeing a prescription (depending on what is needed). It is also a way people can get expensive medicine for little or no money, as people who only use parts of medicine packages at times donate the remainder to these gmachs for the benefit of people in need.

I don't think this would ever go over in the United States, as it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. Yet in Israel it is fairly popular.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky recently went to visit the office of an organization that provides such a service. This organization also collects unused medicines and distributes them to the needy.

During the visit, the director of the organization asked Rav Kanievsky if a person is allowed to dispose of unused medicines, since he cannot return them anyway to the pharmacy. According to the report on Kikar, Rav Chaim Kanievsky responded that it is prohibited as bal tashchis to dispose of unused medicines and they must be given over to be distributed to the needy.

When asked for further clarification as to whether this is something that must be done or if it is simply a recommendation, he reportedly repeated that it is bal tashchis and they must be distributed to the needy.


  1. This is very interesting, as I noticed on the website of a (secular) kibbutz - http://www.k-usha.org.il - that its members are donating unused medicines.

  2. This actually makes a lot of sense. Why should unused medications be thrown out (presuming that they are not spoiled)? The only qualification that I have is that these organizations should employ a pharmacist or a physician to make sure that the medications are dispensed of properly.

  3. who takes responsibility of the drugs? who makes sure that the person has a prescription or gets the drugs or that the drugs haven't reached their expiration date or that the sick person isn't taking another drug which can't be taken with the new one and on and on?? does the guy getting the drugs have to sign a waiver?

    there is a reason why in the us it would be a law suit waiting to happen?

  4. should be "gets the right drugs"

  5. we once used a medicine gmach to get something we needed right away. all we had to do was replace the medicine afterwards. Nobody needed to see a prescription, though I have heard that in some gmachs they do want to see a prescription.

    It was a shocking, though useful experience. I could not believe it would be so easy for someone to get prescription drugs.

    But thats the way it works.

  6. seems to me there should be a distinction between already open vs. sealed packages of medicine.

  7. actually there medicine gemachs here in the states, usually either a paramedic, doctor, pa or pharmacist in control of dispensing the medications.
    Cancer drugs, fertility meds and medicines for mental health issues can be very expensive and once used can show no results for the patient, requiring a different medicine to be prescribed, if they can help even one choleh it is a good thing if properly organized.

  8. In the specific case of fertility meds, many clinics operate a kind of 'gemach' system of their own. Because of the unpredictable nature of ART cycles, a patient often finds themselves with excess medication. The clinic will take your extra and give it to patients who do not have insurance coverage. (Self pay patients often try to resell.)


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