ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Household Pharmaceutical Disposal Practices in India

Call for Action

Action towards scientific planning and management of pharmaceutical waste by controlling it from its source, especially the households, is necessary. We propose a four-item strategic plan for proper disposal of household pharmaceutical waste: fostering pro-environmental consciousness and behaviour; policy framing and implementation; targeted continuous ecopharmacovigilance; and integration of circular economy principles.

Pharmaceuticals are evolving as a major source of pollution worldwide. Demographic, epidemiological, and lifestyle changes, like the ageing and growing population, increased rate of chronic health conditions, availability of low-priced generic treatments, and changes in clinical practice have contri­buted to increased consumption of pharmaceuticals (OECD 2022). Irrational consumption and disposal behaviours of the public lead to pharmaceutical pollution (Vatovec et al 2016, 2017). Households are reported as one of the critical sources for the entry of pharmaceuticals into the environment, along with hospitals and pharmaceutical production, veterinary use, agriculture, and aquaculture. It has been found that the share of household medication ending up as a waste across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 2022) countries varies from 3% to 50%. Unwanted pharmaceuticals are often kept at home for a long period of time before being disposed-off.

The studies have reported that most Indian households possessed unwanted medicines. This included antibiotics, hormonal medicines, analgesics, anti-hypertensives, antidiabetics, etc. Non-adherence, discontinuation due to side effects, early recovery, etc, are the reasons for unwanted medicines in the households. While analysing the disposal practices, it was found that more than half of the respondents used to dispose-off these unwanted medicines with household garbage. Few others used to flush the unwanted medicines into the sink, throw into the rivers, or use as fertilisers for plants. Few believe that waste water treatment removes all the pharmaceutical contents before reaching any waterbodies (Bhayana et al 2016; Monga et al 2020; Sonowal et al 2016; Sivasankaran et al 2019; Zalpuri et al 2021; Aditya and Singh 2013).

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Updated On : 20th Mar, 2023
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