Few people ever think of the effect prescription drugs have on the environment, but they do, and it’s big. Climate change is noticeably changing the environment and, ultimately, our health. Greenhouse gas emissions contribute to a steady rise in respiratory illnesses like asthma and new patterns of infectious infections. The healthcare system is a big contributor towards these emissions, releasing a whole 10%. In 2018, almost 6 billion prescriptions were filled in the US, while consumers spent upwards of $34 billion on over-the-counter medication.
In the US health system, pharmaceuticals are the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. More than a quarter of the global healthcare system emissions can also be traced back to the US healthcare system.
Additionally, pharmaceutical waste can lead to environmental and animal toxicities. There is also a case of pests consuming waste antibiotics, developing antimicrobial resistance, and turning into “superbugs.”
While most of these drugs are lifesaving and help us live healthier lives, some of them might be unnecessary and could just be adding to the already dangerously high levels of pollution. You can take some steps to ensure that your medicine cabinet is more friendly to the environment.
Avoid buying medicine in bulk: This especially applies to over-the-counter drugs that you only use once in a while. Although buying the pills in bulk is more economical, the per pill cost will not be used and might end up expired and with a disposal problem. The exception, however, is for everyday use drugs like hypertension or diabetes drugs.
No need to buy new drugs: If your doctor prescribes a change in dosage of the current medication you’re on, you don’t need to buy a whole new set of drugs. Instead, just half, double, or multiply your current dosage if the math works out.
Only buy prescriptions when you need them: If your doctor prescribes some drugs to use if your symptoms don’t improve or worsen, don’t rush to buy them. Wait until the situation actually requires you to get the drugs.