Global medication waste management practices: challenges and opportunities in developing countries

Vipula R. Bataduwaarachchi, Chamari L. Weeraratne


Medication waste is synonymous with pharmaceutical waste, unused or expired medicines. Improper disposal of medication waste leads to serious personal and environmental health hazards. There were no established medication waste management programmes in most of the developing countries including Asia. Presence of unique socioeconomic problems in these counties makes the establishment of successful medication waste management programme a challenge. We reviewed the literature pertaining to the disposal of medication waste in different countries in order to understand the current status. We found that the medication waste disposal via normal sewage systems was the main method practiced in most of the countries and that the situation was much worse in developing countries. Return of unused medicines to pharmacies, which is considered to be the best method, was successfully practiced in some developed countries with established systems. Lack of proper mechanism to handle medication waste seems to be the main reason behind substandard medication waste management in developing countries. We propose a simple model for the disposal of medication waste taking into consideration the unique challenges and infra-structure issues in developing countries. International level policy and funding support, national level policy and unbiased financial allocations, institutional level comprehensive programmes according to the local requirements and most importantly the public support will make medication waste management programme a success. Furthermore, developing countries should join the on-going international forum on medication waste management. This short communication will be an eye opener for the academic key opinion leaders in developing countries to initiate medical waste management programmes in their countries.


Developing countries, Medication waste, Pharmaceutical waste

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