OHBP co-founder interviewed in the Press and Journal on work to reduce pharmaceutical pollution

Sharon Pfleger (OHBP co-founder, NHS Highland) was interviewed by the Press and Journal on the OHBP mission and her work to reduce pharmaceutical pollution in the environment.

As a consultant in Pharmaceutical Public Health, Sharon has first hand knowledge of our culture around pharmaceutical usage and the need to develop sustainable solutions to reduce the environmental impact. In her interview, Sharon describes practical steps we can take to reduce pharmaceutical pollution in the environment through good medicine stewardship and lifestyle changes.


  • Following consumption, between 30-90% of a pharmaceutical is excreted in the active form – which can lead to pollution of surface water and the wider environment with biologically active compounds. This is because wastewater treatment plants are unable to fully eliminate these compounds during treatment, and introduce pharmaceuticals (and other contaminants) into surface water with final effluent.
  • We need to be especially careful around the prescription and use of antibiotics – as inappropriate use and improper disposal can lead to the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance in the environment.
  • The OHBP is working to raise awareness on pharmaceutical pollution, change prescribing practices to consider environmental impact (in addition to medicine effectiveness and cost), assess how future changes in prescribing and medicine usage may reduce environmental risk, and inform environmental regulations and policy.

What you can do to reduce pharmaceutical pollution:

  • Only ask your GP or pharmacist for a medicine if you think you need it
  • Order the drugs you need when you need them
  • Store medicines properly to prevent them being damaged. They’re best stored in a cool, dry place rather than in the bathroom cabinet, where there can be steam, or in a cupboard next to a hot cooker.
  • Dispose of medicines safely by returning them to your local pharmacy rather than throwing them in the bin or down the toilet

Sharon also spoke about her participation in Homeward Bound, a world leading teaching and leadership programme for women in STEMM to develop networks and solutions to influence policy and progress sustainable action in addressing climate change globally.

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