The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is to institute a programme code name “Take Back Unwanted Medicines” (TBUM), to promote safe disposal of unwanted medicines, including expired and unused medications by consumers.
The programme, will also save the public from consuming expired and unused medicines and subsequently, make it easy for relevant personnel in pharmacies and licensed chemical shops to safely dispose of their expired medicines.
Mr Vigil Prah Eshun, the Head of the Drugs Market Surveillance Department, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Friday, said the programme, would be a pilot project targeted at consumers in the Greater Accra Region before scaling it up to the whole country.
He said it would engage retail outlets such as pharmacies and over the counter medicine shops.
Mr Eshun said in the past, the FDA used to write letters to drug manufacturing companies and all retail outlets, to organise and collect such unused and expired medications for proper disposal, but currently, instead of waiting for such occasions, they had decided to institute the project, to ensure a sustainable collection programme.
He said the programme was expected to ensure that expired and unused medicines with consumers were safely disposed of properly to promote patient and environmental safety and minimise antibiotic resistance, which was a major concern for governments all over the world.
This, Mr Eshun said was also to ensure the effective execution of legal provisions to ensure safe disposal of unwanted and expired medicines in fulfillment of the provisions of the third edition of the National Drugs Policy.
He said the quantity of unused and expired medications in the hands of consumers in Ghana was growing as the population increased, explaining that each day, consumers received a variety of medicines, including supplements (either through prescriptions or over-the-counter) which they retained in their homes for a long period.
Mr Eshun said such drugs needed to be safely disposed of with time, saying, proper disposal of drugs significantly reduced its negative and toxic effects on the environment and also prevented them from getting into the hands of people who did not need them.
He indicated that it was a known fact that people flushed down the toilet with unused or expired birth control pills, opioid analgesics, antibiotics, and other medicines, which may end up in the community water supply system because they could leach into water bodies.
However, the absence of a publicly known and easily assessable means of disposing of prescription and over the counter medicines, therefore, posed a big challenge to the environment, especially, water supply systems, as traces of drugs had been found in plants, fish, and other animals that drunk or swam in lakes, streams, and oceans, hence, genetic alterations in plants, fish, and animals had been observed and also reported, Mr Eshun said.
He further indicated that the Public Health Act, 2012 (Act 851) also had specific provisions in its Section 132, clauses (2) (3) (4), that mandated the FDA to ensure safe disposal of medicines.
Mr Eshun said the FDA, in that direction, had guidelines for safe disposal of medicines in line with international best practices to ensure the safe disposal of medical waste, including expired and unused medical products.
He explained that in the six-month pilot project, the Greater Accra Region would be zoned, and some pharmacies and over the counter medicine shops selected as collecting points to provide facilities with well labelled unused drug receptacles for access to all persons who wished to dispose of unused medications.
Mr Eshun said to sustain TBUM the FDA would integrate the programme into its operations and seek funding from the Ministry of Finance and other donor agencies to support the execution of the project.