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GCU joins project that investigates environmental impact of pills

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University will join a collaborative health project that looks to investigate the environmental impact that pharmaceutical pills have in Scotland.

The One Health Breakthrough Partnership is based on research previously conducted at the university called ‘noPills’, which aims to reduce pharmaceutical micro-pollutants in water compounds. It revealed that 70% to 80% of medicines could be excreted or washed off - which sparked concerns over medicine compounds entering rivers, lochs and the sea once digested by the human body.

The One Health Breakthrough Partnership will look at ways to prevent pharmaceutical ingredients polluting natural spaces and hopes to devise environmentally friendly medicines. Dr Karin Helwig, a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University said:

“We started to realise that pharmaceutical pills within a domestic household could be excreted. We are seeking to prevent these fractions entering the community by investigating which drugs we should be most concerned about and thinking if we can use other drugs instead.”

“Obviously the patient interest will always come first, but sometimes there may be more than one drug that can be equally effective for the patient.”

Dr Helwig said that the project will be urging the public to reduce the impact of medicines on the environment. It will encourage people to only order medicines when required and to return any unused, unwanted or expired drugs to a pharmacy in a bid to better the environment. Dr Helwig added:

“At the moment, the prescribing decision is based on efficiency, safety and cost but the environment is not part of that. What the partnership seeks to do is explore whether we can substitute these drugs with other drugs that are less harmful.”

“We are looking to reduce prescriptions and find alternative ways to come over an illness – it is advised even by the NHS to go to the doctor for medication if your illness doesn’t clear up on its own.”

Although there is no evidence to prove that the pollution poses a risk to the public, concerns have been raised about the possible threats to marine wildlife.

Dr Helwig commented: “Lab tests have shown that with fresh water organisms, there may be changes to their shape, their reproductive organs or they may just die - depending on the organism and different tests.”

Glasgow Caledonian University, NHS Highland, the University of the Highlands and Islands’, Scottish Water and Environmental Research Institute in Thurso are organisations working on the project.

 

Source: Glasgow Times


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