Recently, pharmaceuticals have come into focus as contaminants of the environment. In the present stage, the focus should be on environmental issues along with the whole lifecycle of a pharmaceutical entity. The pharmaceutical life cycle includes all actions and outcomes related to raw materials (including excipients), synthesis, manufacturing, use and after-use environmental presence. To be green, we need to eliminate or significantly decrease hazardous substance use and improve environmental safety and health impacts through the process. In industries, manufacturing emissions and effluents, run-off pollution exposes neighboring residents to potentially dangerous situations and packaging material creates additional trash. Pharmacists can promote the use of medications that are less toxic to the environment and educate the public on the use of newer, less toxic alternatives. For example, inhalers containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which contributed to depletion of the ozone layer, are replaced by hydrofluoroalkanes.
Medication distribution requires large amounts of energy used to transport and store medication properly. The most environmentally responsible distributors look at their entire processes and choose storage and transportation methods that are the cleanest possible. Some have relocated to more accessible locations to reduce transportation costs .Many now deliver not only products, but information about their characteristics and disposal methods. They also establish reverse distribution programs that allow pharmacy retailers and hospitals to return unused or expired products easily.
Part of our problem is simply awareness: many health care professionals persist with outdated practices, mind-sets, and behaviors. Many pharmacies have failed to take a simple step: placing and using recycling bins for the copious amounts of waste we create. Disposal of unused, unwanted, or expired pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) is a specific yet poorly elucidated concern. Scientists have identified trace amounts of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in aquatic environments, waste water bio solids, and treated drinking water.
There is a need to reduce the flow of prescription medications and their by-products into the environment by discouraging inappropriate use and overuse of prescription. For example, pharmacists may counsel patients to select single-entity cough and cold preparations that target their specific symptom(s), as opposed to multi-ingredient products that contain ingredients they do not need. Finally, the solution to sustainability will require all of us to incorporate environmental awareness into our daily practices.
Ansari Samar Noor
Final Year B. Pharm.