A dangerous amount of painkiller drugs, antibiotics and other medicinal products containing biologically active substances are entering the wastewater in Latvia. This was already discovered by scientists in a study in 2017 and 2018. Ieva Putna-Nīmane, researcher of the Daugavpils University, explained – medicines reach the environment in different ways. “This is through wastewater treatment plants, which in Latvia are not currently designed to remove pharmaceutical active substances. The other way is when they are discarded in garbage cans or flushed down a toilet,” the researcher said.
In cooperation with non-governmental organizations in the pharmaceutical sector, an information campaign on the responsible use and correct disposal of medicines is envisaged.
However, there is a serious problem: a lack of an established system so that residents can get rid of medicines they no longer need. It is currently done voluntarily by some pharmacies which accept medicines and pay for the disposal themselves. This process depends only on the good will of pharmacies and there are no obligations tied to it. According to experts from the pharmacy industry, the issue has been in discussion with the Health Ministry for years but there has been no follow-up.
"The collection and disposal of medicinal products in Latvia requires a clear system and state aid. The recycling of medicinal products in Latvia is a process that is on the shoulders of the private sector without any support from the government, and the association considers this situation problematic because it does not in any way contribute to its consistency or population participation," Latvian Pharmaceutical Treatment association said in a written comment addressed to state authorities.
The association considers that reducing the amount of medicines in wastewater can only be achieved by arranging the system and then by informative measures since without an orderly system it makes no sense to inform. The Association of Pharmacy owners and the Association of Pharmacists also agree.
Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM) representative Rudīte Vesere said that, like the associations, VARAM would like to see more active work of the Ministry of Health.
“This issue should be addressed through relevant documents to the Ministry of Health, which we have repeatedly done and urged to do so. There have also been a number of offers on how to do this, but, well, it hasn't moved further. There have been these discussions for several years, negotiations have taken place. Yes, the Ministry of Health agrees that these things should be systemically approached, but all of this has come to a dead end,” Vesere said.
Saeima Subcommittee on Public Health has recently discussed the issue and the decision is to establish a common position and to refer to the Ministry of Health for this matter. However, Latvian Radio failed to get a comment from the Ministry of Health and so far the issue remains unsolved.