Discussions about pollution are often around air, water, and land. Fumes from trucks and chimneys are nasty for the air we breathe because of harmful chemicals. And the burning of fossil fuels for industrial usage continues to weaken our ozone layer.
Household air pollution poses a danger to 2.4 billion people, according to WHO. But there's still a part of the conversation that's rarely addressed — the dangerous effects of household pharmaceutical wastes.
Today, we'll break the ice on household pharmaceutical wastage, its causes and how Famasi Africa is fighting against it.
What is Household Pharmaceutical Wastage?
Imagine this...it's 2pm on a Thursday and you're down with malaria — the past few days have been difficult because you've been too weak to get the medications your Care Specialist prescribed.
You finally call your partner to get them for you at 3pm. But some friends are coming, so you send them your prescription too. You forget to tell your partner not to bother anymore, so at 3:45pm, you have two sets of Coartem.
Can you use both? No. Your friends arrived before your partner, so you use the one they bought and decide to keep the other for the next time you have malaria. But it expired after 3 weeks.
What do you do? You dispose of the expired medication in your waste bin and keep it moving — what you've done is called household pharmaceutical wastage.
What are the Causes of Household Pharmaceutical Wastage?
- Non-adherence to medication dosage: This occurs when you don't use your medications as prescribed. For example: you're supposed to use Flagyl for two weeks but you're better after a week, so you throw away the rest.
- Early recovery from ailments: Sometimes, you recover from health conditions and no longer need your medications. What happens can be divided into two: (1) you give what's left to someone who needs it, or (2) you dispose of the remaining drugs.
- Therapy changes during treatment: It's common for treatment to change due to new developments. For example: if your blood sugar is high, your Care Specialist will place you on medications to reduce it. But what happens when your blood sugar level becomes normal? You'll need to change your prescription so it won't be lower than expected. In such situations, the medications used to reduce your blood sugar level stop being useful.
- Error during medication purchase: Self-medication in Nigeria is between 52.1-92.3%, making it easy to buy medications you don't need. For example: you have ear pain and have used Cerumol in the past, so you buy it from the pharmacy nearby. But three weeks later, the pain is still there — that's when you decided to see an ear specialist. It turns out your ear was infected and Cerumol isn't effective against infections. What do you do next? Keep the Cerumol or dispose of it? If you keep it, it may not be helpful before expiring. And if you dispose of it, you've contributed to household pharmaceutical wastage.
In these situations, you've either wasted healthcare resources or wasted your money. However, the bigger problem is how you've polluted the environment. But what if you flushed your medications down the toilet or sink? Does that make it safe?
The short answer: no.
But here's the answer you deserve: when you flush your medications in toilets or sinks, they're likely to leak into fresh waters in unchanged or new forms — which can affect the environment negatively.
Incorrect discharge of antibiotics can alter animals and encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. [Source]
So, how should you reduce medicine waste?
The unrealistic answer: be wise with your medications and don't buy more than you need — you've probably heard this more times than your daily breath.
But the realistic solution is this: join Famasi.
Because you won't find many committed to a better environment like we are. Here are 5 ways we're reducing pharmaceutical wastage (and the benefits you'll enjoy):
- Medication Exchange: Usually, when you no longer need your medications, the following action is to dispose of them. This can be by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the bin. But with Famasi, our loyal customers simply inform their assigned Care Specialist, who then arranges for the unneeded medications to be exchanged for what they need.
- A 28-day cycle: Sourcing for medications is a huge problem, especially when managing chronic conditions. The result? Stocking more drugs than needed — which often leads to wastage. This happens for two reasons: price fluctuations and scarcity of medications. But with Famasi, customers on special plans enjoy lower prices than retail pharmacies and don't have to worry about getting their medications. Why? Every month, we deliver the medicines they need without fail.
- Supply chain management: We source for needed specialised medications ahead of their refill dates, making it unnecessary for our customers to stock medications for a lengthy time. And with our Dispensary OS, we can combine inventory with out-of-facility care. This makes it possible to properly dispense medications to our customers, especially those with recurrent medication needs.
- Elimination of unnecessary drugs: One of the reasons for low medication adherence is having several drugs to use and long-term medication usage. It gets overwhelming and is partly why medication adherence to hypertensive drugs is between 33.1% to 50.7% in Nigeria. But because Famasi services are personalised, we eradicate unnecessary medications and use combination therapy — an example is the Ulsakit in our Ulcer Care plan for customers with peptic ulcers; it combines Omeprazole 20mg, Clarithromycin 250mg and Tinidazole 500mg. This helps our customers feel better without being overwhelmed. Here's another example of how you can benefit from this:
5. Improving drug adherence: Through our Care Specialists, we provide ongoing support for our customers to ensure they use their medications as prescribed. This also helps us pick up needed changes or side effects that generally prevent medication adherence. Our Refill OS ensures that customers get their medications before they're required — anytime after that may be too late.
Why's reducing medication wastage necessary?
If you tour Nigeria, there's a high chance of not seeing functional waste management systems. People drop their sachet water nylon or empty water bottles on the road hoping the rain will wash them away.
But the non-stop flooding during rainy seasons shows that this is a problem. The country's drainage system is worse than bad breath — gutters are either stagnant due to abandonment or non-existent in many areas. Adding pharmaceutical pollution worsens the effects of poor environmental health, which is responsible for about 24% of global deaths.
In 2012, unhealthy environments contributed to roughly 12.6 million deaths, so as Famasi continues to grow, we'll invest in initiatives and partnerships focused on building a better environment.
This is why we're excited to partner with Waste to Wealth Enterprise, a waste management company focused on reducing, reusing and recycling waste products. With this partnership, members of their community can get medications with the value of recycled items. Here's how it works:
- Create an account with Waste to Wealth Enterprise
- Provide an inventory of recyclables
- The value of recyclables will be accredited to your account
- Use credits to get your medications from Famasi
A healthy environment is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Join our 1000+ customers across 15 states who contribute to a better environment and enjoy easy access to the care experience you deserve.