Teleosis Institute reducing pharmaceuticals in San Francisco water supply

Over 900 pounds of unused and expired medicines have been diverted from San Francisco waterways between June 1, 2007 and March 1, 2008 thanks to the Green Pharmacy Program initiated by the Teleosis Institute, Berkley, CA, a non-profit educational organization devoted to reducing the environmental impact of health care. Teleosis initiated the program in response to scientific studies published between 2002 and 2006 revealing that pharmaceuticals were being found in measurable quantities...

• Drug "take-back" program nets 900 pounds of unused medication in 8 months

BERKELEY, CA, March 11, 2008 -- Over 900 pounds of unused and expired medicines have been diverted from San Francisco waterways between June 1, 2007 and March 1, 2008 thanks to the Green Pharmacy Program initiated by the Teleosis Institute, Berkley, CA, a non-profit educational organization devoted to reducing the environmental impact of health care.

Teleosis initiated the Green Pharmacy Program in response to scientific studies published between 2002 and 2006 revealing that pharmaceuticals were being found in measurable quantities. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the presence of prescription drugs in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

The Green Pharmacy Program establishes community-based take-back sites where consumers can return unused medications and sponsors events advocating environmentally safe disposal of unwanted medications. Currently 14 pilot take-back sites are operating in Bay Area pharmacies, doctor and dental offices, veterinarian hospitals, health care facilities and local recycling events. To learn about upcoming drug recycling events, visit http://www.teleosis.org/gpp-locatons.php#locations.

Staff at take-back sites document all returned medicines and screen for controlled substances, which are turned away because of current DEA restrictions. Medications are collected from take-back bins for incineration (the most environmentally safe disposal method) by Integrated Waste Control Inc., a Hayward, CA-based waste hauler.

Green Pharmacy Program is unique in that it requires customers to document important information about their returned medications, including reason for return, place of purchase, and percentage of prescription unused. Data about the medications is sent to the Unused & Expired Medicine Registry, a program developed by the Community Medical Foundation for Patient Safety in Texas, which compiles national statistics on medicines returned and reasons for disposal.

According to Dr. Joel Kreisberg, executive director of Teleosis, the purpose of collecting data on unused medicine is to identify which pharmaceuticals are most often unused or over-prescribed and how sustainable medical practices can reduce healthcare's waste stream. Preliminary data for 2007 from Teleosis shows that 40% of prescription medications go unused, and the total wholesale value of returned medicines exceeded $112,000.

"By deepening our understanding of the quantities of medicines discarded, we can better comprehend the effectiveness of our current pharmacological approaches to illness, presenting a case for sustainable health care," Kreisberg said.

A study by the United States Geological Survey in 2002 found over 80% of waterways tested in the U.S. show traces of common medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, antidepressants, blood pressure medicine, codeine and antibiotics.(1) Consumers often discard of unused and expired medicines in the sink or toilet, which can contaminate waterways and damage aquatic life.

The Teleosis Institute launched the Green Pharmacy Program in an effort to reduce pharmaceutical pollution of San Francisco waterways and increase public awareness about the environmental impact of discarded medications. The Institute also is participating in SB 966 Pharmaceutical Stakeholders Meeting, sponsored by California Integrated Waste Management Board, which is convening various organizations to identify effective strategies for reducing pharmaceutical waste at a state level.

The Green Pharmacy Program spans multiple sectors of the industry, educating and engaging manufacturers, distributors, pharmacists, physicians, consumers and waste management to participate in a solution to the growing problem of pharmaceutical pollution in environment. Green Pharmacy take-back site include:
• Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, Berkeley and Monterrey, CA
• Teleosis Institute Office, Berkeley, CA
• Transcendentist, Berkeley, CA
• Foundation For The Healing Arts, San Rafael, CA
• Chimes Pharmacy, Berkeley, CA
• Elephant Pharmacy, Los Altos, Walnut Creek, Berkeley, CA
• Health First! Pharmacy, Windsor, CA
• VCA Albany Animal Hospital, Albany, CA
• United Pharmacy, Berkeley, CA
• Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy, Location to be determined
• Coastal Health Alliance, Bolinas, Point Reyes, CA.

Teleosis Institute is actively seeking sponsorship to expand the Green Pharmacy Program. Current corporate sponsors include Pharmacy Integrative Pharmacy and Integrated Waste Control Inc. Pharmaca will be offering free medicine disposal at several of its California locations, including its newest Rockridge, Oakland store opening on March 28, 2008. Contact Teleosis if you are interested in sponsoring a Green Pharmacy Take-Back site or in becoming a self-sponsored Green Pharmacy Take-Back site.

Teleosis Institute recognizes that environmentally safe disposal of unused medications is not the final solution. The Green Pharmacy Program is only one part of the Teleosis Institute's Green Health Care model (http://www.greenhealthcare.org/), a vision of medicine that provides leadership in environmental and sustainable healthcare by developing innovative approaches to reducing the environmental impact of medicine. To learn about upcoming drug recycling events visit www.teleosis.org/greenpharmacy.

The Teleosis Institute is an educational non-profit organization devoted to reducing the environmental impact of health care.

(1) Kolpin, D.W., Furlong, E.T., Meyer, M.T., Thurman, E.M., Zaugg, S.D., Barber, L.B., and Buxton, H.T., 2002, Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999-2000: a national reconnaissance: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 36, p. 1202-1211. Retrieved on March 10, 2008 from http://ks.water.usgs.gov/Kansas/pubs/abstracts/emt.est.v36.html

###

More in Environmental