New Delhi: In an attempt to draw the government’s attention towards a major concern towards lack of protocols as well as awareness regarding the disposal of expired and unused drugs, the Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA) has asked the government to develop strict regulations and policies for disposal of pharmaceutical prodicts.
The concern raised by IPA is all the more pertinent since the domestic Indian pharmaceutical market is worth around Rs. 1.2 lakh crore. Associated with this humongous market size, comes the tremendous responsibility of disposing of medicinal and pharmaceutical waste generated at the level of the consumer, the hospital, as well as the retail pharmacies, the wholesale distributors and the manufacturers in the medicines distribution supply chain.
Unfortunately, there is no system in place, which would direct the patients and clinics to send the medicines unused by them through a specific safe collection and disposal mechanism. Instead, the unused medicines usually are dumped in the trash cans or flushed down the sink or toilet. In addition to medicines, blood sugar testing strips, cotton and bandage materials as well as syringes and needles used for self-injection by the patients are also dumped in the trash cans, stated IPA.
All medicines are chemicals and their improper disposal poses a serious threat to the environment and public health. Each year there are tons of expired or unused medicines disposed of by households, hospitals, and manufacturers. The disposal of these medicines is not as per any particular guideline.
IPA has communicated to the Union health minister JP Nadda about the absence of an approval process in place to control the disposal of expiry dated and unused drugs, said Suresh Khanna, general secretary, Indian Pharmaceutical Association in his letter.
Of special concern is the inappropriate disposal of large quantities of antibiotics, steroids, antidepressants, analgesics, anticancer drugs and many more. Improper disposal of antibiotics has been identified as one of the contributing factors to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. Exposure to unused anticancer medicines is a serious health hazard.
The country faces lack of well-laid out drug-recall system and no mandatory rules to keep a track of the unused or expired medicines. However, there are guidelines proposed by the Pollution Control board for disposal of medicines that specify, deep burial or incineration.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to implement these guidelines by the consumers, retailers or wholesalers. As there is no separate collection system for unused pharmaceuticals, these ultimately are disposed along with municipal waste.
The body requested the government to look into the formulation of:
- Policies and systems for segregation, collection and disposal of pharmaceuticals at the domestic as well as at specific stages of the pharmaceuticals distribution
- Monitoring of large scale disposal of unused pharmaceuticals by the
- Development of nation-wide awareness on the ill effects of unsafe and inappropriate disposal of
- Mechanisms to reduce unnecessary medicine purchases and implementation of responsible use of
- Development of the concept of eco pharmacovigilance and strict implementation
- The collection and safe disposal system for unused expired or unexpired medicines must be developed and implemented at the local government
Moreover, there is a need to ascertain the practices of pharmaceuticals disposal by other developing countries. India now needs to act on a war footing to put in place a surveillance system on the safe collection and disposal of pharmaceutical waste and expiry dated drugs, noted Khanna.