As an editor for Pharmaceutical Technology, I often hear about novel drug-delivery mechanisms. Often they’re high-tech materials such as polymers, hydrogels, or nanoparticles. But a recent Associated Press story revealed a biological-based drug carrier that I hadn’t thought of: fish.
Researchers funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) went to Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Orlando and tested fish caught in rivers where wastewater plants release treated sewage. The fish had traces of drugs to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, and depression. These therapies enter the water after people take and excrete them or dump them into the toilet. Sewage treatment plants apparently do not remove them from the water.
Fortunately, fish make a lousy drug-delivery mechanism. You would have to eat hundreds of thousands of fish to get one therapeutic dose, according to Bryan Brooks, one of the researchers. But even if the trace quantities of drugs are not large enough to affect us, they may harm fish, frogs, and other aquatic life.
As part of its expanded National Rivers and Stream Assessment, EPA is sampling for pharmaceuticals and other compounds in fish and surface water. This study and EPA’s proposal to add pharmaceuticals to the Universal Waste Rule encourage me that the agency is alert to the potential problem and is trying to learn more. Let’s hope we can find a way to protect ourselves, our wildlife, and our water supply from contamination.