Why Are There Prescription Drugs in Your Drinking Water?

The Associated Press National Investigative Team recently unveiled their 5-month long study of prescription drugs in our drinking water. Unfortunately they found the problem was widespread.

Their team visited treatment plants, interviewed over 200 scientists, officials and academics, analyzed federal databases and reviewed hundreds of scientific reports. Their conclusion was unanimous, there are drugs in your drinking water

The question is how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water? Very easily judging by the amount of drugs found in the drinking water, however the answer is also complicated.

It’s disturbing but not at all surprising when you realize the many sources of these drugs.

The first most obvious source would be people flushing their old medicine down their toilets. This has been the standard way to dispose of medicine for years. It can’t get in the hands of children, no one can steal it, it can’t end up being accidentally taken.

Of course everyone presumed it just harmlessly dissolved. Then when the drinking water was treated at the water plants any residue would be destroyed and purified.

Everyone presumed wrong. The medications did dissolve. Unfortunately the water purification plants cannot remove every last trace. There is a small amount that is passed on to you.

The importance of safely discarding old medications is now being preached nationwide. Some places are even recycling medications for use in free clinics. Hopefully as the public is educated this source of contamination will be eliminated. Unfortunately this is the only source easily taken care of.

When the alert went out that a probe finds drugs in drinking water, all prescription drugs were considered. However these trace amounts also included veterinary drugs.

Pets are now treated for a wide range of ailments, often with the same drugs as humans. Approximately $5.2 billion of veterinarian drugs were dispensed last year according to data from the Animal Health Institute.

When these drugs are dispensed to pets, what their bodies need are absorbed, however what they don’t need is excreted in their waste products. Not all of these waste products are collected and disposed of in the correct manner. Through the action of rainfall these waste products find their way into rivers and streams, and eventually to your local water plant.

Animal feed lots are of course high on the list of answers to how do pharmaceutical drugs get in drinking water.

Unfortunately the truly big source is human waste. Like the veterinary medicines our bodies use what they need and eliminate the rest. Ours are flushed down the toilets everyday. They go to the sewage treatment facilities and are treated and discharged into lakes, rivers and streams.

That same water is then drawn into the drinking water facilities where it is treated again and sent on to us. But, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment plants specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

People lucky enough to have their own water filtration equipment remove a little more of the drug residue, but not every house has a water filtration system.

There is growing concern that combinations of drugs even in small amounts may harm humans over decades of consumption. Water unlike food is consumed in sizable amounts everyday. There are currently no good solutions to this health concern.

Your best protection lies in filtering your own drinking water. The next time you read “probe finds drugs in drinking water” rest assured it won’t be in your drinking water.

Animal Health Products and Veterinary Market (Developing Veterinary Drugs and Biologics)

Veterinary medicine is a multi-billion dollar market. In the United States, there are an estimated 150 million dogs and cats. In recent years, an increasing number of biomedical companies (biotech, pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, medical device, and diagnostic) have initiated efforts to advance their technologies and/or services into the animal health market. This serves two primary purposes, being to generate revenue and often obtain valuable data capture.


The process is simple. The process to get a veterinary product approved is not simple, and often requires years of work to obtain the necessary data to obtain an approval and support the product in the market.

The process is cheap. The costs do develop veterinary drugs or biologics is not cheap, and can range from several hundred thousand dollars to tens of millions, depending on the species, disease, etc.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all animal products: The FDA-Center for Veterinary Medicine regulates drugs. However, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Center for Veterinary Biologics regulates diagnostics, vaccines, immune based products (immune modulators and immune stimulants), and immunoglobulin products. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates topical ectoparasitic products like topical flea and tick control.

How to Develop and Animal Health Product:

We advise seeking an expert in the field. Far too often, someone tries to develop a product for veterinary medicine only to find out they did not have the expertise or understanding (regulatory, market, etc.) to effectively develop the product. There are several consulting groups that can advise on how to develop veterinary products or those for the pet market. Some consultants may limit their services to regulatory affairs, while others may focus more on clinical trials or marketing. Finding a group which satisfies your needs is important.

What are the Biggest Markets:

This is often hard to define. Companion animals (dogs, cats, horses) often represent the largest spending per species per visit. Livestock (cattle, swine, poultry) represent the largest volume but the economic pressures are often far greater per animal. Minor species (ferrets, rabbits, etc) is a growing market, and the FDA has recently enacted the Minor Use Minor Species Act (MUMS Act) to facilitate the develop of drugs for these species.

How to get Started:

1. Define the regulatory path: The first step is to understand which regulatory agency will oversee the development of the technology or service. Once this is defined, it will set the foundation for the necessary clinical trials, manufacturing, labeling, promotional materials, and other aspects that will define the product or service. If you are not certain of which group will have oversight of the regulations, you should consult with an expert to help define your regulatory strategy.

2. Define the clinical path: Next, determining which trials (GLP, GCP) in target species will be required to support label claims and the approval. Don’t assume that previous lab animal work or unapproved studies will support your approval process.

3. Define the market strategy and economics: After the regulatory path, clinical path, and timeline are estimated, it is very important to understand the economics of the market you are proposing to go into. The concept that pet owners will spend anything on their pets is a huge mistake. There is a limit, as with any market, on the cost of treatment. Constructing the financial justification will help avoid financial mistakes and raise the confidence that the project will meet financial metrics (ROI, NPV, etc.).

Are There Drugs in Our Drinking Water?

You have got to love the following quote. It was given by the head of a group representing major water suppliers in California to the Associated Press, after they asked about their reluctance to provide the results of drug tests on their treated water. The reason given was…the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the information” and might be unduly alarmed. This articles tells you what we do know is going into our drinking water supplies and I think you will be able to “interpret the information”. After you’ve read it, please let me know if you were “unduly alarmed”.

Unduly alarmed… unduly alarmed at finding sex hormones, antibiotics, heart medications, anabolic steroids, oral contraceptives, etc. in our drinking water.

Why would anyone be unduly alarmed?

When fish in the Potomac River (Washington DC’s main water source) have been found to have both male and female characteristics from exposure to estrogen-like substances (some had both testes and an ovary) we might “be unduly alarmed”!

Ya think?

The federal government hasn’t set any limits on the amount of drugs allowed in our drinking water and, consequently, no testing for their presence is required by water providers and, yes, this includes bottled water providers.

Some states, cities and independent labs have tested drinking water for drugs and here is some of what they found:

1. Philadelphia found 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in its treated drinking water which included medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. The city’s watersheds contained 63 drugs or byproducts.

2. 18.5 million people in Southern California were drinking anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications along with their water, and a sex hormone was detected in San Francisco’s drinking water.

3. Washington, D.C., draws its water from the Potomac River where many thousands of homes dump waste water and runoff from failing septic systems directly into the river. Not surprisingly, they reported positive tests for six pharmaceuticals.

4. New York State’s main water supplies tested positive for heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a tranquilizer and a mood stabilizer.

Thirty-four of the sixty-two major water suppliers contacted in one survey reported they did no testing for drugs and many of the water providers that do test for drugs only test for a few.

Those of us connected to large water suppliers are not the only ones concerned. People in the rural areas, on their own wells, are very worried about the presence of drugs in the groundwater.

And bottled water users don’t always dodge the bullet either. The bottled water main trade group admits that many bottlers simply repackage tap water and don’t treat or test for pharmaceuticals.

How do drugs get into our water supplies in the first place?

Most of them come from us. We are a nation awash in drugs, legal and otherwise, we buy them and flush them, either unused or not metabolized.

Similarly, some come from large farm animals being treated for injury or diseases or being given hormones to increase their size, or milk production, etc.

Even from our pets…the small animal veterinary drug market now exceeds five billion dollars a year.

A recent Associated Press study reported, “at least 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals and contaminated packaging”, is being flushed down the drain annually by U.S. hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Now, think about that for a moment, hospital waste by the tons filled with germs and antibiotics. It did not take scientist long to link such dumping to antibiotic-resistant germs and genetic mutation that may promote cancers according to the AP.

So far, most of these drugs have been found in minute amounts, leading some experts to declare that, based on what we now know, there is little need for concern.

They say things like “one part in a trillion is like one second in 32,000 years.”

But if you get one or two of those parts with every glass of water you drink, or every shower you take or every meal you eat that was prepared using tap water…how many seconds, minutes or hours will that come to? What’s the long term effect?

Medical experts point out that medicines are chemicals designed to act in a very specific manner on the body at very small doses and when these drugs are tested for safety approval, the time frame is over a matter of months, not over a lifetime.

Laboratory research results show that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. Cancer cells reproduced too rapidly, kidney cells grew too slowly and blood cells behaved as if inflamed.

I don’t know about you, but I am alarmed about what is going into our water supplies and I don’t think unduly so.

I know our leaders are concerned about the drugs in our drinking water and I’m sure they will gather the data over the coming years to make the case for more testing, better water purification, etc. but I don’t think anyone should wait for the government to get it done.

If you don’t have a water purification system in your home I would recommend you get one as soon as you can. If I could, I would buy a water purifier for everyone who reads this article. But I can’t.

What I can do is guide you to water purifiers with cutting edge technology that will provide you and your family healthy water to drink, to bathe in, and to cook with.

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