It’s no longer just the side effects of their medicines.
A new study found “excessively high” levels of antibiotic and antifungal drugs in water sources near a major drug production center in India where 50% of the country’s drug exports are produced and a fifth of the world’s generic drugs. Unsurprisingly, the researchers also found high levels of microbes that were resistant to those drugs.
It should give us no comfort that this was found in India and not the US. Microbes travel long distances with ease. A drug-resistant pathogen first noticed in parts of China infected its first US patient last year.
Of the twenty-three water samples the researchers took, all but one contained bacteria that were resistant to multiple drugs; all samples contained carbapenemase-producing bacteria, which are known as the “nightmare bacteria” because it is virtually untreatable and kills up to 50% of those who get infected.
Some drugs were found in concentrations hundreds or thousands times higher than recommended safe limits. One water sample contained an antifungal drug in concentrations 950,000 times higher than the safe limit.
Sadly once again, Big Pharma is getting a little help from the FDA. In order to export drugs to the US, foreign drug manufacturers must adhere to good manufacturing processes and are supposed to be inspected periodically by the FDA. Given that the FDA is way behind on its inspections, the manufacturing practices foreign companies must follow do not include anything about contaminating the environment.
And as we have reported before, here in the US people dump drugs into the toilet to dispose of them or they become part of human waste. Municipal treatment plants don’t even test for the presence of these drugs, so treated water or sludge put on farmland may be loaded with them.
As we’ve reported before, antibiotic resistance is a growing catastrophe and expected to kill ten million people a year worldwide by 2050. Even now, these superbugs kill around 700,000 people a year. This public health crisis is fueled by over prescription of antibiotics and overuse of these medicines on CAFOs (concentrated feeding animal lots). Now we can add Big Pharma’s pollution of our waterways to the list. Even if we refuse to take pharmaceutical drugs and rely on natural alternatives to antibiotics, we can still be sickened or even killed by them.
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