Research needed on drug residues in water says Recipharm award winner

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pharmacology

Research needed on drug residues in water says Recipharm award winner
Further analysis is needed to assess the risk posed by low level pharmaceutical contamination of water supplies says the winner of Recipharm’s 2011 environmental award.

Benoit Roig of France’s Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique (EHESP) – whose work on detecting antibiotic and anti-cancer drug residues in the environment won the prize – told the threat posed by such contamination is unknown.

Analysis shows that pharmaceutical residues are present in 25 per cent of all drinking water in France but only in trace amounts and we don’t know the potential effects​.”

We have no indication of the risk that picogram or nanogram quantities of drugs in drinking water pose​,” he continued, adding that the Recipharm award “is an important opportunity to communicate a more balanced message about a very sensitive subject​.”


Professor Roig – who develops in-field monitoring systems that combine recognition and detection devices to identify ‘micropollutants’ – said his team had to gain the trust of the drug manufacturing industry, which is often criticised​ for its environmental impact.

When we started the project in 2006 we experienced some difficulties working with drugmakers, however when we explained our aim is to reduce the presence of pharmaceutical contaminants in the environment it created trust and openness.”

In any case – according to Roig – pharmaceutical manufacturers in Europe behave responsibly when it comes to contamination control, despite the lack of mandated testing requirements for manufacturing waste water.

It’s not the pharmaceutical industry in Europe that is polluting water supplies, it is the patient​,” he said, explaining that the primary source is consumption and subsequent excretion of drugs by member of the public.

Improper disposal of unused drugs contributes​,” Roig added “but it is not​the principal source of contamination​.”


In a statement accompanying the award Swedish contract manufacturing organisation (CMO) Recipharm said: “Professor Benoît Roig has through his highly recognised research brought new and valuable knowledge which encourages the sustainable use of pharmaceuticals.

Together with his team, specific methodologies have been developed which monitor pharmaceutical pollutants in water, helping to identify and lower the presence of pharmaceuticals in the environment​."

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