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Good practices for take-back and disposal of unused pharmaceuticals in the Baltic Sea region Clear Waters from Pharmaceuticals (CWPharma) Activity 4.1 Report
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Reports of the Finnish Environment Institute 34/2020
Appropriate collection and disposal of medicine-related waste has been identified as one of the main ways to decrease the emission of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) into the environment. Improvement to the take-back and treatment of collected pharmaceutical waste may be considered low-hanging fruit when one is considering measures to reduce API emissions. However, comparable information that would enable estimating the potential impact of these efforts has not been available. Directive 2004/27/EC, related to medicinal products for human use, mandates that EU member states implement appropriate collection schemes for unused or expired human-use medicinal products. However, it does not provide any guidelines on practical implementation of these schemes. Several studies have pointed out significant differences among Member States in this regard. In March 2019, the European Commission published the European Union Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment. The actions specified therein cover all stages of the pharmaceutical life cycle, from design and production to disposal and waste management. It emphasizes such elements as sharing good practices, co-operating at international level, and improving understanding of the risks. This report is aimed at filling knowledge gaps and proposing good practices for take-back and disposal of unused human and veterinary medicines and other pharmaceutical waste. The report is targeted to e.g. ministries, environment and medicines agencies, supervisory authorities, municipalities, hospitals, NGOs, pharmacists, doctors, and veterinarians. For the report, current national practices for take-back and disposal of unused medicines and other pharmaceutical waste in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden were evaluated. The pharmaceutical waste originating from households, hospitals and other health care institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, and veterinary use was considered. The proportion of citizens who return unused pharmaceuticals via designated collection points varies greatly between Baltic Sea countries, from about 10% to 70%, with 16–80% disposing of them of as mixed household waste and 3–30% flushing them down the drain. The most commonly cited reason for improper disposal of medicines on households’ part is lack of information about their environmental impacts and how to get rid of them in an environmentally sound manner. Separate collection of unused household pharmaceuticals does not exist in Russia, and the collection mechanism functions poorly in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Information on the take-back schemes for unused human medicines is more readily available than is corresponding information on veterinary medicines. We identified, all told, 21 good practices and recommendations for take-back and disposal of unused pharmaceuticals and other pharmaceutical waste and for promoting the rational use of pharmaceuticals in the Baltic Sea region. Nevertheless, implementing them at national level requires particular consideration due to differences in national legislation and other characteristics of the EU Baltic Sea countries and Russia. The good practices identified in this report answer the call issued in the EU strategic approach for an efficient risk-reduction strategy.