The safe disposal of expired and unwanted pharmaceuticals will soon be regulated by local authorities after legislators agreed to the creation of an NGO to oversee the process, Green party MP Charalambos Theopemptou said on Monday.

Parliament voted unanimously for the creation of a non-profit organisation to take on the task of disposing of pharmaceuticals under a legislative and regulatory framework similar to the one already in place for electronics, batteries and other recyclables, Theopemptou told CyBC.

In the case of pharmaceuticals, the NGO would team up with municipalities to destroy the waste, in a cooperation similar to the one local authorities currently have with Green Dot for PMD and paper recyclables, Afis for used batteries, and Weee for electronics.

Asked whether the cost of proper disposal will be borne by the consumers, Theopemptou said although it ultimately would, it would not be noticeable due to its broad distribution.

Although the exact details have not yet been determined, Theopemptou explained that, as is done abroad, special bins will be installed inside or outside pharmacies with pre-established collection times, where the public will be able to deposit expired and unused medicines removed from their cardboard boxes.

Flushing or throwing leftover drugs into the general rubbish contaminates waterways with deleterious effects on human health and wildlife. In addition to preventing this problem, Theopemptou said, the management system could offer a window into how medicines are being used in Cyprus, and open a way to gather data on over-prescription, which could be very useful for Gesy.

He said local authorities will have the right to examine what is thrown into the rubbish and take action if residents are found to be non-compliant with new regulations.

However, president of the Cyprus Pharmaceutical Association Eleni Piera-Isseyegh said that although pharmacists were behind the legal framework in principle, the manner of implementation raised important concerns as pharmacists feel they have been left out of some crucial decision-making points.

One concern, Piera-Isseyegh said, was whether or not pharmacies themselves stood to benefit from free disposal of their own unused expired stocks. Another was the open question of the degree to which pharmacists would be expected to perform free services for the state, such as sorting through and categorising the medicines thrown away by the public in the bins on their premises.

The head of the pharmacists’ association also pointed out that some medicines require different management, such as those classed as narcotics, which are controlled substances for which the state must have an accountability system.

A meeting with Health Minister Popi Kanari is soon to be held to begin the process of detailing licensing for drop-off points and resolve these matters, answering the pharmacists’ concerns, Piera-Isseyengh said.