October 14, 2010 by David Taylor

Although, at least in the developed world, acute impacts of chemicals on the aquatic environment are rare, and chronic impacts from chemicals derived from point sources can be controlled, there is increasing interest in the potential for chronic impacts to occur from what are euphemistically called “down the drain chemicals”. Pharmaceuticals fall into this category being released continuously into the environment in small concentrations from multiple point sourcesThis question was the subject of a one day seminar organised in Paris by the International Society of Pharmacovigilance. The wide ranging programme included speakers from the pharmaceutical industry, medicines and environmental regulators and academia.

I made a presentation on the pharmaceutical industry response to the issue of ecopharmacovigilance.

The seminar covered both potential environmental impacts together with human exposure via drinking water and occupational exposure to cytotoxic drugs. The general conclusion remains that the perceived risk to both humans and the environment caused by exposure to drug residues is very low but that further research work is desirable.

In addition there is general agreement that efforts should continue to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals entering the environment from both manufacturing and the disposal of unused and/or life expired pharmaceuticals.