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Expired drugs pose threat to human & environment in China

Reporter: Hu Chao 丨 CCTV.com

05-15-2014 03:42 BJT

A recent survey by one of China's largest pharmaceutical companies says about 15,000 tons of drugs expire every year. These products pose a threat to both human health and the environment if they're not disposed of properly. But so far, there is no state policy regulating that process. In recent years, some drugstores have taken on the task. But as our reporter Hu Chao found out, it has come at an increasingly high cost.

This is one of the largest drugstore chains in Taiyuan, the capital city of north China’s Shanxi Province. They have a box available every day to drop-off expired drugs. People who bring in their pills and medicines need to register. And on certain days, they can also receive a two-yuan coupon for every five sets they deposit.

"Most people bring in their expired drugs on the 16th and 17th of the month, because that’s when they can get cash coupons. We usually receive about twenty boxes of expired drugs in these days." Zhang Lifang, store manager of Taiyuan Wanmin Pharmacy, said.

The local government started to encourage drugstores to collect expired drugs in 2008. Over seven hundred stores now participate. The drugs are burned in an incinerator around twice a year. Last year, nearly 100,000 tons of expired drugs were disposed of. But the cost of motivating people to bring in their expired medicines is beginning to become a burden for some stores.

"Properly disposing of expired drugs is a national issue. Now the biggest concern is the high cost of the process. Take this drugstore for example, it has spent about three million yuan since the project started, including the cost of coupons, storage and transportation of the drugs." Guo Jianping, Market Supervision Director with Taiyuan Food & Drug Administration,said.

And while incinerating the drugs has so far been done for free by the local garbage company, that too may not last.

"We’ve only been collecting expired drugs on a trial basis. If the country can develop a specific policy to regulate and support drug disposal, our work will be more systematic and effective." Guo said.

Although drug disposal programs are becoming more widespread, many areas in China are still not covered. But with people’s health and the environment on the line, the need for a national-level policy will only grow greater.

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