Pharmaceutical waste in the environment: a cultural perspective
Public Health Panorama
World Health Organization
Introduction: There has been a significant rise in the use of medical pharmaceuticals to combat disease and ill‑health across the WHO European Region. However, global estimates suggest that over half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed or sold inappropriately, and that half of all patients fail to take them as directed. As well as impacting negatively on individual health, and resulting in extensive resource waste, pharmaceutical use – and “misuse” – can have significant adverse repercussions on wildlife and ecosystems, particularly when unused medicines are disposed of inappropriately. Methods: This paper examines the rise in medicine (mis)use, and considers what is known about pharmaceutical waste in the environment. While technological responses to alleviate the impacts of pharmaceutical waste exist, they are costly and complex, and do not address the root causes of the problem. Results: This paper demonstrates how incorporating a cultural perspective can help us to understand not just how medicines can be more thoughtfully disposed of, but why particular medicines are administered to, and consumed or disposed of by, particular population groups in the first place. Conclusion: Understanding the ways that people’s perceptions, beliefs, and social norms and values interrelate with medicine prescribing, consumption and disposal practice is key to alleviating medicine misuse.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is freely available from WHO via the link in this record.
Vol. 3, Iss. 1, March 2017