Do consumer’s care about the environmental consequences of over-the-counter and prescription drugs? Erb Faculty Director, Joe Arvai published in Environmental Health

There is growing concern that pollution from pharmaceuticals used in human medicine and agriculture are a significant threat to the environment. Little is known, however, about whether consumers are aware that pharmaceuticals may have a detrimental influence on the environment systems. A study led by Joe Árvai examined consumer’s risk perceptions and choices regarding the potential risks to the environment from drugs used in human medicine and in agriculture. The research involved a representative sample of American households; consumers of over-the-counter and prescription medicines were asked to participate in a hypothetical but realistic set of choices that involved tradeoffs between human and environmental health. The research also examined the extent of public support for government policies aimed at regulating the release of pharmaceutical products into the natural environment.

The team found that, for agricultural pharmaceuticals, there was a high level of support for a policies requiring farms to limit their use of antibiotics. In the domain of pharmaceuticals used in human medicine, the team found that people were willing to consider environmental consequences when choosing a drug, but only when choices were made about treatment options for a rather harmless disease. In contrast, when decisions were made about treatment options for a severe disease, the drug’s effectiveness was the most important criterion.

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