Retrospective environmental risk assessment of human pharmaceuticals in the Nordic countries 1997-2007

image of Retrospective environmental risk assessment of human pharmaceuticals in the Nordic countries 1997-2007

New pharmaceutical substances and formulations are constantly being introduced and marketed in the world, targeting an increasing number of human receptors. Consequently, the consumption of human pharmaceuticals has been rapidly increasing in the Nordic countries over the last decades. In the Nordic countries, a growing fraction of the population is the elderly. The increasing fraction of elderly people, having a higher propensity of getting several diseases and afflictions, will lead to even higher consumption of pharmaceuticals in the near future. The faith and possible effects of pharmaceutical residues, after they have been excretred from the patients taking them, has been attracting a growing interest whithin environmental scientific comunity. However, since there are over 1200 different active substances being sold as human pharmaceuticals on the Nordic market, it is very difficult for authorities and regulating bodies to prioritise among them and identify which substances that needs special attention (in terms of monitoring, adjustments in the waste water treatment plants, specific information or directives to prescribers). This report presents the predicted (i.e., calculated) environmental concentrations of the top-selling pharmaceuticals in the Nordic countries in retrospective (1997-2007), along with a calulated environmental risk associated. The authors elaborate on the data and identifie the pattern common to all Nordic countries.



Environmental risk associated with certain Modes-of-Actions (‘across a therapeutic class')

In an attempt to visualise how a therapeutic class of pharmaceuticals, rather than single drugs, may influence the aquatic environment, this study have suggested to calculate a "Mode-of-action-based" environmental risk quotient. The rationale behind this concept resides in the fact that several drugs belonging to the same therapeutic class most often target the very same biological receptor in the human body, and hence also possess similar ecotoxicological properties. Oftenly, the pharmaceuticals belonging to the same therapeutic class have several structural traits in common such as certain functional groups. If these drugs are only risk assesessed individually, one-by-one, the reviewer might in fact miss the apparent, summed ecotoxicological pressure that a cocktail of these drugs discharged into a recipient may induce.


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