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Prescription Medication

Pharmaceutical Pollution

Pharmaceutical pollution is the contamination of waterways and other water sources with drugs, hormones, and other chemicals found in medicines. This pollution has a serious impact on the health of ecosystems and the organisms within them. In addition, pharmaceutical pollution has been linked to the development of antimicrobial resistance-- a significant threat to global health and the efficacy of life-saving antibiotics. To prevent pharmaceutical pollution, proper disposal of medications should be practiced, such as returning unused and expired drugs to a pharmacy. Safe practices should also be followed when handling and administering medications. By adopting best practices and advocating for environmental responsibility, pharmacists can help reduce the impact of pharmaceutical pollution on our planet. Many organizations, including the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and Health Care Without Harm have launched campaigns to introduce policy and create practice tools to help pharmacists identify pathways to prevent the introduction of pharmaceuticals into the environment. Below you'll find resources outlining some of these efforts and campaigns.

International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Statement of Policy 


International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) Green Pharmacy Practice Report 


“The problem of pharmaceutical pollution and safer pharma” 

Video from Health Care Without Harm Europe, describing roles for the pharmaceutical industry, health care professionals, and patients. Note that the “Safer Pharma” campaign the video refers to ended in 2020 and has been followed by the “Pharma in the environment” website listed below. 


Pharma in the environment 

Website hosted by Health Care Without Harm Europe, presenting information and materials about pharmaceutical pollution, recommendations for stakeholders, and an overview of EU regulatory developments. 

Hyderabad's Pharmaceutical Pollution Crisis 

A report from the Changing Markets Foundation exploring the impacts of pollution from pharmaceutical production sites in the Indian city of Hyderabad, one of the world’s largest “bulk drug” manufacturing hubs, and a major supplier of medicines across the European Union and United States. 

Pharmaceutical residues in hospital wastewater 

Report by Health Care Without Harm, including case studies from hospitals in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.

Janusinfo Pharmaceuticals and Environment Database 

A searchable database of environmental impact of specific drugs based on available data on environmental risks and hazards. 

12 Principles of Green Chemistry

Fundamentals of green chemistry for pharmaceutical science

US Food and Drug Administration Drug Disposal Information: Unused Medications 


US FDA Patient-friendly handout: “Drug Disposal Options” 


US Environmental Protection Agency Patient-friendly handout: “How to dispose of medicines properly” 

Eco-directed and sustainable prescribing of pharmaceuticals. Recommendations prepared by the Office of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, House of Lords, Parliament of the United Kingdom.

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