European Union strategic approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment

Author (Corporate)
Series Details COM (2019) 128
Publication Date 11/03/2019
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Communication presented on 11 March 2019 by the European Commission outlining a set of actions addressing the multifaceted challenges that the release of pharmaceuticals poses to the environment.

Further information:

The Strategic Approach presented by the Commission identifies six action areas concerning all stages of the pharmaceutical life cycle where improvements can be made. The text addresses pharmaceuticals for human as well as for veterinary use. The areas cover all stages of the lifecycle of pharmaceuticals, from design and production to disposal and waste management.

The six areas identified include actions to raise awareness and promote prudent use, improve training and risk assessment, gather monitoring data, incentivise “green design”, reduce emissions from manufacturing, reduce waste and improve wastewater treatment.


Pharmaceuticals discarded in the environment have been shown to pose a risk to fish or other wildlife, for example by affecting their ability to reproduce, by altering their behaviour in ways jeopardising their survival, or through direct toxic effects. In addition, incorrectly disposed medicines may contribute to the serious problem of antimicrobial resistance. Increased awareness has prompted further investigation, as well as calls and proposals for action to reduce emissions to the environment, in particular to water but also to soil.

This Communication places an emphasis on sharing good practices, on cooperating at international level, and on improving understanding of the risks. This is crucial in the context of addressing antimicrobial resistance, a problem that is growing at global level. Several actions in the strategic approach are intended to contribute to the objectives of the European One-Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). The Action Plan stresses the need for a One-Health approach taking account of the interconnections between human and animal health and the environment.

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Related Links
European Commission: Press Release, 11/03/2019: Pharmaceuticals in the environment: Commission defines actions to address risks and challenges
European Commission: Fact Sheet, 11/03/2019: Strategic approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment [Q&A]

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