What do you do with a whole box of tablets that were prescribed a while ago but can no longer be used as they have expired or you no longer need them? Throw them in your dustbin, one would say. Only, you should not.
Improper disposal of pharmaceutical waste such as expired drugs, used test strips and unused medication are ending up in landfills, some of these eventually polluting water bodies around the landfills.
Approximately 15 tonnes of pharmaceutical waste is generated in Bengaluru every day.
“We have been focussing on the production of drugs, but not on how to discard them. Sometimes, doctors prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily leading to their wastage at some point. There is a discrepancy in the production of drugs and their ultimate utilisation. A lot of research is required to reduce pharmaceutical waste,” said Shashidhar Buggi, Director, SDS Tuberculosis Research Centre and Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, at a seminar on pharmaceutical waste management here on Saturday.
The State does not lack in infrastructure for pharmaceutical waste management. Karnataka is said to have 25 operational Common Biomedical Waste Treatment Facilities, the highest in any State so far.
“The problem is the lack of awareness among the masses who dispose of expired drugs along with general waste. This is finally burnt or thrown in landfills. Either way, it becomes highly hazardous when it comes in contact with the water bodies and the atmosphere. It enters the food chain and affects minors and aged people as they are the most vulnerable owing to lower immunity,” said A. Ramesh, Senior Environmental Officer, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.
He added that ideally, people should collect expired medicines in a bag and hand this over to the authorities concerned, in this case pharmacists or hospitals, for proper disposal. However, despite options of doorstep collection available to citizens for a nominal fee, people are hesitant to pay, Mr. Ramesh said.