Press release – Parliament wants the EU to tackle pharmaceutical pollution

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Parliament on Thursday approved a resolution with 671 votes to 15 and 10 abstentions calling for new measures to tackle pharmaceutical pollution, which causes long-term damage to ecosystems, reduces drug efficiency and increases resistance to antibiotics.

While MEPs welcome the Commission’s communication from March 2019, they regret the serious delay in presenting a strategic approach and concrete actions. They call for more careful use of medicines, the development of greener manufacturing and better waste management in the EU.

MEPs stress that pharmaceutical products both harm ecosystems and reduce their future effectiveness, e.g. by causing antibiotic resistance. Medicines can affect water bodies, as they cannot be effectively filtered by wastewater treatment plants. In spite of often-low concentrations, there is a risk that patient health can be affected in the long-term. MEPs are particularly concerned that the endocrine-disrupting properties of many medicines end up in the environment.

MEPs call for “greener” use of pharmaceuticals

MEPs are worried by the ever-growing overall consumption of medication per capita in the EU and call for member states to share best practices in limiting preventive use of antibiotics and in disposing of unused medicines. They encourage doctors and veterinarians to provide information on how to properly dispose of unused medicines.

According to MEPs, measures to reduce the pollution should not only include end-of-pipe controls (e.g. improved wastewater treatment), but encompass the entire life cycle of drugs, from design and production to disposal.

The resolution also underlines the need for further development of “greener pharmaceuticals”, which are as effective for patients, but less harmful to the environment. In this context, it is important to make them more biodegradable whilst not impairing their efficacy.

Background

In March 2019, the European Commission issued a communication on the EU’s Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment outlining a set of possible actions.

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