Mississauga family upset pharmacy won't accept unused medical equipment

A Mississauga family is upset that boxes of sealed and sterile medical equipment ordered earlier this year will likely go to waste, because the pharmacy that delivered the supplies won't take them back.

An organization called Not Just Tourists will take unused medical supplies and send them overseas

Danielle Rebello is frustrated that a pharmacy won't accept unused medical equipment that was delivered to her home while her father was being treated for pancreatic cancer. (CBC)

A Mississauga family is upset that boxes of sealed and sterile medical equipment ordered earlier this year will likely go to waste, because the pharmacy that delivered the supplies won't take them back.

Danielle Rebello said her father Cedric, who died of pancreatic cancer on April 5, had received the more than $2,000 worth of equipment from the pharmacy, Calea Ltd., to help with his chemotherapy treatment. All of the cost was covered by OHIP.

After Cedric Rebello died, the family tried to return the boxes of unopened supplies, but his daughter said the pharmacy refused.

"No pharmacy, hospital or doctor's office will take the equipment," Danielle Rebello told CBC News in an interview. "We have to throw it out, there's nothing we can do ... It's sad that it all has to go to waste."

In a statement emailed to the CBC, the senior director of Calea's parent company Fresenius Kabi, Matt Kuhn, said that the pharmacy's return policy follows Health Canada's Good Manufacturing Practices Guidelines. He said that this kind of protocol is in place because once products leave their hands, they no longer have control over how they are stored.

"Even unopened products can be contaminated under certain conditions such as high or low temperatures, exposure to body fluids, household cleaners, medicines, pets, foods and insects," Kuhn said. "Assuring the safety and integrity of the products we distribute is our highest priority."

CBC News spoke to officials at Toronto's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre to find out what families like the Rebello's can do with the left over equipment.

These are just some of the sealed and unused medical supplies that were to help with Cedric Rebello's chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer. The family says the supplies are worth more than $2,000, though the cost was covered by OHIP. (CBC/Morgan Dunlop)

After consulting with one of the senior pharmacists at Princess Margaret, the centre's senior public affairs adviser, Jane Finlayson, said in an email that it's standard protocol to dispose of the equipment, although "homecare stores may be able to reuse the IV poles.

"Drugs like heparin, can be brought to drugs stores to dispose of ... These items are incinerated. Sodium chloride bags can be emptied into the sink and bags[disposed of] through regular garbage ...  All the other supplies (needles, gauze etc.) can be donated," the email says.

CBC News has found one organization, called Not Just Tourists, that will take sealed medical and homecare equipment to clinics in need overseas. Travellers can volunteer to take the supplies with them and deliver them to clinics when they fly to destinations in developing countries.

"The supplies from homecare are the most suitable because they are fairly basic so any remote clinic can use them," Avi D'Souza of Not Just Tourists told CBC News in an email. That includes unused bandages, gloves, syringes, urinary supplies and IV supplies.

"Every week we have about 50 volunteers sort and pack the supplies," D'Souza said. 

With files from Morgan Dunlop