Teleosis Institute's "Green Pharmacy Program" Reduces Pollution in the San Francisco Bay

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700 pounds of unused medicines collected in the first six months.

Over 700 pounds of unused and expired medicines were diverted from San Francisco waterways in 2007, thanks to the efforts of Berkley-based Teleosis Institute and its partners EBMUD, Save The Bay, Kaiser Permanente, Elephant Pharmacy, Pharmaca, Whole Foods and City of Berkeley.

The Teleosis Institute, a non-profit dedicated to sustainable medicine and a healthy environment, launched the Green Pharmacy Program ( in May 2007 in an effort to reduce pharmaceutical pollution of San Francisco waterways and increase public awareness about the environmental impact of discarded medications. Recent studies find over 80% of waterways tested in the U.S. show traces of common medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, antidepressants, blood pressure medicine, codeine and antibiotics. Consumers often discard of unused and expired medicines in the sink or toilet, which can contaminate waterways and damage aquatic life.

The Green Pharmacy Program sponsors events advocating environmentally safe disposal of unwanted medications and established community-based take-back sites where consumers can return unused medications. Green Pharmacy is unique in that the site manager documents all returned medicines through the Unused & Expired Medicine Registry, a program developed by the Community Medical Foundation for Patient Safety in Texas, which compiles national statistics on medicines returned and reasons for disposal. Once a statistically significant sample is documented, the data will be presented to pharmaceutical researchers, manufacturers and governmental organizations to build support for take-back programs nationwide.

The Green Pharmacy Program uses a product stewardship approach to "green" the pharmaceutical life-cycle. The Program spans multiple sectors of the industry, educating and engaging manufacturers, distributors, pharmacists, physicians, consumers, and waste management to participate in a solution to the growing problem of pharmaceutical pollution in environment.

Currently 12 pilot take-back sites are operating in Bay Area pharmacies, doctor and dental offices, veterinarian hospitals, health care facilities and local recycling events. Staff at take-back sites document all returned medicines and screen for controlled substances, which are turned away because of current DEA restrictions. Medications are collected from take-back bins for incineration (the most environmentally safe disposal method) by Integrated Waste Control, Inc., a Hayward-based waste hauler.

According to Dr. Joel Kreisberg, executive director of the Institute, the purpose of collecting data on unused medicine is to identify which pharmaceuticals are most often unused or over-prescribed. "By deepening our understanding of the quantities of medicines discarded, we can better comprehend the effectiveness of our current pharmacological approaches to illness, presenting a case for sustainable health care," Kreisberg said.

You can participate in the solution to prevent pharmaceutical water pollution by safely disposing of unwanted medications at a Green Pharmacy take-back site near you:

  • Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, Berkeley, CA
  • Teleosis Institute Office, Berkeley, CA
  • Transcendentist, Berkeley, CA
  • Foundation For The Healing Arts, San Rafael CA
  • Chimes Pharmacy, Berkeley, CA
  • Elephant Pharmacy, Los Altos, Walnut Creek, Berkeley
  • Health First! Pharmacy, Windsor, CA
  • VCA Albany Animal Hospital, Albany, CA
  • United Pharmacy, Berkeley, CA
  • Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy, Location to be determined

The Green Pharmacy Program is an integral part of the Teleosis Institute's Green Health Care model (, a vision of medicine that provides leadership in environmental and sustainable healthcare by developing innovative approaches to reducing the environmental impact of medicine.

About The Teleosis Institute:
The Teleosis Institute is an educational non-profit organization devoted to reducing the environmental impact of health care. The Institute promotes sustainable medical practices and works in partnership with the health care community to build a movement for positive social and environmental change. Our programs and educational materials include: The Green Health Care Program, The Green Pharmacy Program, Symbiosis: The Journal of Ecologically Sustainable Medicine, and Environmental Health Brochures. Visit for more information.


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Evin Guy

Niyati Desai
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