Harmonisation of pharmaceutical take-back systems in the EU

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When medicines enter the environment, they harm living species and ecosystems. Improper disposal of household pharmaceutical waste increases the concentration of pharmaceuticals in the environment and thus their detrimental impacts. Since 2004, the EU has obliged its Member States to establish 'an appropriate collection system' for unused and/or expired medication. However, as no implementation guidelines exist, large differences in the systems and their use remain. Pressure for adoption of guidelines harmonising the systems across the EU has been increasing. We address the question whether such harmonisation could mitigate pharmaceutical pollution, and which regulatory measures would be appropriate. To answer this, we conduct a comparative investigation of the systems' regulation and an empirical study of citizens' beliefs and behaviour across four European countries. We find a potential for increasing the effectiveness of pharmaceutical take-back systems through their harmonisation and conclude that the EU has the competence and tools to regulate this.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Health Law
Pages (from-to)445-471
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Comparative legal analysis
  • Harmonisation
  • Pharmaceutical law
  • Pharmaceutical take-back systems
  • Pharmaceuticals in the environment (PiE)


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