Hyderabad is a hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing. That pollutants from these factories enter water bodies, poisoning them and posing a danger to people and the environment is also known. It is indeed ironical that the process of making life-saving drugs results in exposing thousands of people to deadly diseases and health issues. And a recent campaign by a Swedish pharmaceutical giant drives this point home.
Apotek Hjartat a Swedish pharmaceutical company, came up with an ingenious campaign – they made a ‘pill’ out of the pharmaceutical pollutants found in Hyderabad’s waters. They took 100 litres of water samples from water bodies in the vicinity of many pharmaceutical factories, and analysed it for six months along with the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE).
To prove just how many active ingredients make their way into water bodies from drug-manufacturing companies, Apotek extracted these pollutants from the contaminated water samples, and made a pill called ‘Sordidum Pharmacum’. This pill isn’t for consumption of course, it is a commentary on just what people who have to use these water sources are exposed to on a daily basis.
“The water outside the medical factories in Hyderabad contained active substances found in a wide spectra of drugs, ranging from HIV medicine to heavy painkillers,” Apotek revealed. “The substances included, but was not limited to: O-Desmethyl-cis-tramadol (Opioids), Fluconazole (Medicine for treating fungal infections), Levetiracetam (Medicine for treating epilepsy), Nevirapine (HIV medicine), Losartan (Medicine for treating high blood pressure) and Anastrozole (Used for treating breast cancer).”
When pharmaceutical companies let out such untreated waste into water bodies, it leads to a host of problems - diseases in the flora and fauna, health issues including skin diseases and cancer in people who use this water, and also antibiotic resistance.
From each litre of the water analysed, Apotek was able to extract 5.9 grams of the powder that ultimately went into Sordidum Pharmacum.
Apotek also made a short video based on its research and findings. The video introduces Sordidum Pharmacum as a medicine “made from water polluted by pharmaceutical factories”, which is a “cocktail made from drugs found in the water.” It then cuts to Hyderabad, one of the biggest hubs for manufacturing drugs, and how they went on to collect water samples and made the pill.
Apotek’s resultant campaign to make pharmaceutical manufacturing companies more responsible is called ‘a hard pill to swallow’. The company has also introduced a label called “Välj med hjärtat” which translates to “follow your heart”. It described the label as a “stamp of approval and labeling of prescription-free drugs” which comply with their environmental and sustainability standards. Compliant manufacturers will be able to carry this label. This gives Swedish customers the chance to choose consciously to use drugs that are produced responsibly and sustainably.
Several activists have been outspoken about the pollution caused by the pharmaceutical companies in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Many water bodies, such as the Musi River, get polluted as a result of the toxic chemicals used at these pharma manufacturing facilities.