Thanks to the evolution of medicine and the advancement in pharmacotherapy, a lot of diseases has become a history, while those still lingering around, their severity and situated risk have been greatly reduced, but as the saying goes; “Every rose has a thorn,” so do the Pharmaceutical drugs. A drug is a blessing to humanity, although not entirely but to a large degree, in reducing the pain and burden of various disease conditions. Along with their beneficial effects, they often express adverse reactions, sooner or later. One of such undesirable effect is how they affect our environment.

Ecopharmacovigilance is a term that is derived from Ecology and Pharmacovigilance which is a science and activities related to the detection, assessment, understanding, and prevention of adverse effects or other problems related to the existence of pharmaceuticals (Drugs) in the environment. Ecopharmacovigilance concerns with adverse drug-related events within the ecosystem with all environmental impacts on humans and other organisms.

Ecopharmacovigilance Objectives:

To ensure that significant pharmaceuticals-related environmental issues are correctly detected and efficiently treated.

Monitoring the adverse effects of pharmaceutical medications on humans through non-therapeutic environmental exposure.

Sources of contamination of the environment by drugs

  • Patient excretion of the drug or its metabolites via the sewage system.
  •  Direct release from wastewater system from manufacturing units.
  • Hospital or self-disposal of unused, unwanted, expired drugs via trash or flushing.

Some important examples of drugs causing harmful effects on the environment are:

  • Vultures’ death after consuming carcass of animals treated with Diclofenac sodium.
  •  Ethinyl estradiol adversely affecting fish through its “feminization” of males.
  • Progesterone producing sterility in frogs.
  • Ivermectin adversely affecting the growth of dung beetle.
  • Fluoxetin causing behavioural changes in shrimps and bacterial resistance.

Corrective Measures.

Some corrective measures can be put in place to reduce the number of drugs entering the environment. They include reducing the amount of pharmaceutical waste generated, increasing the efficiency of sewage treatment plants, green pharmacy practices, and developing better drug disposal programs. Various attempts have been made by regulatory authorities to reduce the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals, including the Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) of drugs. Monitoring the adverse effects of the drug is not only good for medical practice but also essential for the protection of our environment.

Abubakar Mukhtar BPharm. MSc. (In view)

Further Readings:

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