Given that much of what we understand about medications comes from "after market" surveys anyway, wouldn't it be more beneficial, efficient and fair to the consumer to allow them to return drugs if they don't work or cause serious side effects they can't tolerate? Allowing returns would have the following advantages:
1) It would virtually eliminate medication thrown into the water system or trash (environmental).
2) So long as patients had to fill out a form describing the reason for the return, allowing returns for refunds would provide more comprehensive, faster data on side effects and efficacy than anything happening now.
3) Drug companies would have a greater incentive to produce drugs that really worked and really didn't have side effects - rather than hiding the studies that didn't make their product look good, because they'd risk the drugs being returned to them. As a corollary, companies would have an incentive to understand person-to-person variations and figure out how to solve and account or them.
4) Drug companies and the FDA would get faster information and more information about serious problems, could use big data to begin anticipating problems and even recalls, and could adjust labeling to be far more accurate. (The old medical school joke: Quick, take the new drug before it develops side effects - would no longer be so apt.)
5) Patients with serious illnesses - and seniors prescribed a lot of meds - would no longer risk paying for medications that don't help or that they can't use after awhile. (An addendum to this is that manufacturers should no longer be allowed to charge more per pill for very short prescriptions people get in order to try a medication first. Drug companies make this impossible by jacking up the price of very small prescriptions so high, you may as well get the whole thing. I know, I've tried it many times. Having the right to return the medications, though, might make drug makers more amenable to short prescriptions to try certain medications avoid returns.)
6) Doctors would be alerted instantly and in a standardized way if their patients couldn't continue the course of treatment prescribed and why.
7) The FDA would be alerted a lot faster about things that take researchers an inordinate amount of time to figure out. I saw a research paper once askng whether a certain eye antibiotic from India was causing resistant strains because it was so frequently subpotent. I found the paper after experiencing the problem - that then a switch in medication source solved. Allowing patients to return drugs that didn't work could catch a problem like this almost instantly, long before a large enough group suffered the effects for a few of them to be noticed by researchers.
8)Drug companies might have a greater incentive to more fairly price their drugs if consumers can exercise judgment about whether a drug is worth it and end up more prone to bringing back horribly expensive drugs.
Anyway, I can think of more reasons. Does anyone have others? If you have a counter to any of these points, please also include thoughts on how such a potential problem might be solved. If you know any lawmakers concerned about prescription drug prices, ask them the question!