Patients are the major source of pharmaceutical present in the environment, but it is manufacturers that need to act to reduce their impact according to Jerker Fick from the department of chemistry of the Umea University in Sweden.
He told us that: “I think the industry could provide researchers with more background info on their chemicals as well as do more relevant eco-toxicological studies as well make sure that they and their suppliers do not release extreme amounts of pharmaceuticals at their facilities.”
Fick – whose study of antibiotic residues and the impact drug pollution has on fish earned him the €3,000 Recipharm environmental award – said because people will always need to consume medicines, efforts should focus on drugs that are the biggest cause for concern.
“It is a bit of a special case since these pollutants are essential to human health and reducing the usage is not an option. A different approach is to study novel treatment technologies to reduce the levels of micro-pollutants into the environment.”
He added that: “I have investigated different approaches how to prioritize pharmaceuticals of particular environmental concern and developed analytical methods for several of these.”
The call for drug companies to share details of their suppliers comes a few weeks after DSM-Sinochem voiced concerns about the impact irresponsible active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) suppliers have on the environment.
The firm suggested society pays the cost when contractors discharge untreated or partially treated waste into public sewage systems to save money, explaining that such activities further the spread of resistance and render antibiotics ineffective.
DSM-Sinochem called for suppliers to invest in adequate water treatment at their own facilities in order to stop residues mixing at shared water treatment facilities.
Fick agreed that such an approach would help, telling us “I think that this should be good solution, especially since many pharmaceuticals are not degraded in public sewage treatment plants.”