Working Paper Review Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Pharmaceutical Waste: Overview, Management, and Impact of Improper Disposal

Version 1 : Received: 9 October 2020 / Approved: 12 October 2020 / Online: 12 October 2020 (13:34:54 CEST)

How to cite: Nyaga, M.N.; Nyagah, D.M.; Njagi, A. Pharmaceutical Waste: Overview, Management, and Impact of Improper Disposal. Preprints 2020, 2020100245 Nyaga, M.N.; Nyagah, D.M.; Njagi, A. Pharmaceutical Waste: Overview, Management, and Impact of Improper Disposal. Preprints 2020, 2020100245


Introduction: Pharmaceutical products are inevitable for human health. Owing to the growing need for pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical companies introduce drugs annually into the market in addition to the extensive collection of existing pharmaceutical products. Households, farms, health facilities, and pharmaceutical industries release pharmaceutical waste into the environment at low concentrations through routine pharmaceutical use, damage, and expiry. The effects of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) on non-target species in the environment are not known. Over the years, pharmaceuticals such as diclofenac and ibuprofen in trace amounts have been detected in public water systems, ground and surface water. Unwanted medicines should be safely disposed of at a reduced financial cost to mitigate the public and environmental health risks. Lack of general knowledge of how to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals leads to improper disposal resulting in accidental toxicity, rising healthcare costs, landfills pilfering/scavenging, water supply pollution, anti-microbial resistance, and death. To mitigate such effects, pharmacists should raise public awareness about safe disposal practices. Objective: This review aims to examine the sources of pharmaceutical waste, disposal costs, secure disposal methods, the effects of inappropriate disposal, and the role of pharmacists in the disposal. Method: The information on the stated objectives was gathered from available sources through a comprehensive literature review. Conclusion: Many countries contain tons of pharmaceutical waste that are expensive to destroy. Because of improper disposal, pharmaceutical waste has been found at trace amounts in drinking and surface water. A practical, environmentally sustainable approach to pharmaceutical waste management, with policies and guidelines, and public awareness campaigns, are necessary to address the problem of safe waste disposal. The national drug regulatory bodies should conduct environmental risk assessment resulting from the disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals. Pharmacists should facilitate extensive training on sustainable drug use and proper pharmaceutical waste disposal at all levels to reduce the risks associated with improper disposal. Reduction of pharmaceutical waste generation at each step of a drug’s lifecycle, implementing takeback options, collection at approved sites, and modern technology to treat wastewater are highly recommended to reduce the effects of unwanted pharmaceuticals on human health and the environment.


Pharmaceutical waste; Sources; Cost of disposal; Management; Impact; Pharmacists


Medicine and Pharmacology, Immunology and Allergy

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