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Pharma company warns against old medicine

By Liu Zhihua | | Updated: 2015-03-26 08:57

A leading State-owned pharmaceutical company has called on the public and government to pay more attention to the disposal of expired drugs which are becoming a significant threat to the environment and to human health.

Guangzhou Baiyunshan Pharmaceutical Holdings Co Ltd invited university researchers with expertise in public policies and environmental protection as well as government health officials, to discuss the issue at a forum in Beijing on March 21.

About 79 percent of Chinese households keep common, over-the-counter and prescription drugs in the home, but more than 80 percent of them do not regularly clear out their medicine cabinet and more than 38 percent of the drugs are three years or more past their use by date, according to the pharmaceutical group.

Chinese authorities have categorized expired drugs as waste that is dangerous to the environment because their chemical ingredients probably have changed and can produce harmful chemicals that can be hazardous to the environment and people’s health, especially when they are dumped into water and earth, according to Zhu Yujie, a medicine expert with Hubei Food and Drug Administration.

Lawbreakers sometimes collect discarded drugs to recycle them onto the market, or to make counterfeit drugs, and both are a great threat to consumers' health, Zhu added.

Many countries, including the United States and Japan, have regulations on expired drug disposal, and some have established facilities to recycle expired drugs.

But such facilities are rare in China, Zhu noted.

In theory, it is quite possible to track and recycle expired drugs, because every drug has a code that contains manufacture information, such as an expiration date.

Currently, few pharmaceutical companies in China have made efforts to shoulder responsibility to help deal with the problem, said Zhu.

Guangzhou Baiyunshan has been recycling expired drugs since 2004, through its drugstore partner network in communities all over the country. It has recycled and safely decomposed more than 1,000 tons of expired drugs, according to Chen Mao, general manager with the pharmaceutical group.

This year, the company is moving online. People can search social media platform WeChat for sites, including assigned drugstores and hospitals, in their cities where they can exchange expired drugs for new drugs. They can also find hotlines in their cities through the company's WeChat.

However, one company's ability to safely recycle expired drugs is not enough given the vast quantities of drugs that expire every day. Guangzhou Baiyunshan hopes more people and companies, as well as government officials, will become more aware of the issue and make efforts to deal with it, said Chen.


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