Via stuff.co.nz, 25-08-2011

A worrying number of New Zealand pharmacies are disposing of unused drugs by throwing them down the sink, according to a new study.

The study by Alfred Tong, Barrie Peake and Rhiannon Braund, from the University of Otago, found more than half (52.1 percent) of the 265 New Zealand pharmacies surveyed reported pouring unused liquid medications down the sink or flushing them down the toilet.

The figures were worse for unused class B controlled drugs, with 73.3 percent of pharmacies disposing of them down the sink or toilet.

The study’s authors said disposing of drugs in this way could negatively affect the environment as it was unknown how efficiently sewage treatment facilities in New Zealand removed trace levels of pharmaceuticals.

“For example, the commonly-used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac has been shown to induce renal failure in vultures following the ingestion of [meat] from cattle treated with the drug,” the study said.

The study said pharmacies needed to be more aware of the potential environmental risk of disposing of drugs and better guidelines should be introduced.

There was currently no safe and funded national disposal system available for liquid drugs.

Most of the pharmacists surveyed supported the idea of a state-run disposal scheme accessible to pharmacies across the country.

The study was published in the latest Journal of Primary Health Care.

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