Kiah Williams, 28, is passionate about making lifesaving medication available to everyone who needs it. Today, 50 million Americans skip filling prescriptions because of the expense. At the same time, $5 billion worth of unexpired medications go unused, ending up in landfills or being flushed down toilets, thereby contaminating waterways.
To match patients with the drugs they desperately need, Williams and two fellow Stanford University graduates launched the nonprofit SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine), an online platform that facilitates the collection and distribution of unopened, unexpired medications from nursing homes, hospitals, and pharmacies.
“We currently redistribute $80,000 worth of medications every month,” says Williams.
A native of West Philadelphia, she now lives in the Bay Area and runs SIRUM out of Silicon Valley. Besides her cofounders, the organization employs two full-time people as well as interns and volunteers.
Recently passed Good Samaritan laws, which offer legal protection to those who help others, are making SIRUM’s work possible—and Williams says that work is impacting the country on a massive scale.
“I believe health care is a fundamental right, and that health equity sets the stage for reducing inequality,” she says. “Health care is a prerequisite for getting out of poverty. Fifty percent of bankruptcies in the United States right now include significant medical bills. This is a national problem, and access to lifesaving medicine is an important part of that.”