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2015 Pharmaceuticals Interest Group Annual Report 

2014 Pharmaceuticals Interest Group Annual Report


PharmaWelcome to the SETAC Global Pharmaceutical Interest Group (PIG). The presence and potential hazards of pharmaceuticals in the environment have received increasing international attention in the academic and popular press, as well as within the regulatory community. This focus on the potential ecological effects from pharmaceuticals largely began as a result of a growing number of technical papers published from the late 1990s until the present that have reported the detection of low levels of pharmaceuticals in wastewater treatment plant effluent, manufacturing plant effluent and surface water and, to a more limited extent, groundwater, drinking water, soils, and sediment.

Environmental concerns about pharmaceuticals have consistently been linked to two factors:

  • The bioactive properties of pharmaceuticals, which is the basis of their therapeutic (pharmacological) activity.
  • The potential for pharmaceuticals to be continuously present, albeit at low concentrations, due to ongoing use.

Concerns have been raised about whether the current environmental risk assessment scientific methodology may need to be revised or replaced to evaluate the potential environmental impact of pharmaceuticals appropriately.

The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Pharmaceuticals Interest Group (IG) was established to advance the science and understanding of pharmaceuticals in the environment. It is a formally recognized forum within SETAC and was established by the SETAC World Council (SWC) in October 2005. Membership of the Pharmaceuticals IG is open to all SETAC members, as well as to all professionals interested in the topics addressed by the Pharmaceuticals IG. Please contact Mike Williams if you have any questions.

Mission and Purpose

The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Pharmaceutical IG exists to serve as a scientific resource to all stakeholders impacted by the topic of pharmaceuticals in the environment, and fulfils the following mission and purpose:

  • Serve as a focal point within SETAC as a means of involving the membership in research and discussions
  • Stimulate critical assessment in order to establish the best available science
  • Encourage the worldwide incorporation of the best available science and strategic approaches
  • Advance the overall understanding of the fate, effects, and potential environmental consequences of pharmaceuticals
  • Provide scientific support to ensure effective regulatory decision making
  • Provide a neutral platform and focal point for collaborative identification, evaluation, and resolution of scientific issues


The scope of the SETAC Pharmaceuticals IG is human and veterinary pharmaceuticals. Personal Care Products (PCP) and other emerging contaminants are not included since it is specifically pharmacological bioactivity that has called into question the adequacy of the existing environmental risk assessment science for pharmaceuticals. Scientific coverage of the Pharmaceuticals IG includes all fields pertinent to conducting effective environmental risk assessments for pharmaceuticals, such as transport, fate, exposure, effect, and impact analysis. All environmental compartments, such as aquatic, terrestrial, and biomass are included.

The Pharmaceuticals IG will develop and implement a long-range strategic plan for stimulating and participating in the advancement of Pharmaceuticals-related environmental science. Roles and responsibilities focus on identification of research needs and fostering scientific exchange. In specific, the steps the Pharmaceuticals IG may take to meet its mission and purpose include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Preparation of technical papers (general information, issue specific)
  • Developing a specific area of the SETAC web site for the Pharmaceuticals IG
  • Developing a discussion forum on the SETAC web site
  • Sponsoring general pharmaceuticals technical sessions at meetings
  • Holding targeted (subject specific) discussion groups at meetings
  • Implementing short courses, for example in advance of either SETAC or other conferences
  • Communication of updates in the SETAC Globe

Recent Activities

Singapore Workshop on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – September 2016

Pharmaceuticals SingaporeDespite the widespread use and release of antibiotics and antimicrobial compounds in the environment, the awareness about its implications to development of AMR remain poorly understood, globally. Therefore, a two-day (12–13 September 2016) workshop on “Mapping the Lifecycle of Antibiotics in Southeast Asia” was organised by U.S. State Department, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey and SETAC, especially to provide a platform for participants from the countries of the Mekong River Catchment, where practices in aquaculture and farming activities use antibiotics and antimicrobial products. About 50 delegates from 12 different countries brought together different expertise including soil and environmental sciences, chemistry, public health, and social science. Several members of the PAG (e.g. Ed Topp, Alistair Boxall, Andrew Singer, Rai Kookana, Mike Meyer, Bryan Brooks) contributed to the workshop. Through presentations and breakout sessions, the workshop provided an excellent opportunity to learn and share how antimicrobial resistance affects Southeast Asian region. The representatives from the Lower Mekong Basin countries shared their local experiences and practical difficulties at ground level. It was highlighted that there is an urgent need to enhance the awareness of community (including industry and academia) about the issue to positively influence current unsafe practices of antibiotics use. Citizen science was identified to potentially play a major role in the region in this regards. Various workshop products are in preparation, including a guidance manual on approaches to develop policies for better information collection and implementing effective management practices in countries with low resource base.

Special symposium in Salt Lake City North America Meeting

The aim of this half-day symposium was to bring together a number of experts to provide an overview on the current status of knowledge relating to regional differences in the concentrations and classes of pharmaceuticals present in the environment, factors that can influence the use or release of pharmaceuticals in different regions, perceived impacts of pharmaceuticals due to geographical and cultural differences and the ability to transfer knowledge between regions to assist in management of the issue. Workshop attendees considered the important region-specific drivers in how pharmaceuticals reach the environment, what lessons can be learned from previous research and regulatory activity, and what knowledge can be transferred to regions that have corresponding knowledge gaps. The workshop included a number of short presentations from experts in academia, environmental, human health and regulatory bodies and the pharmaceutical industry and led to a discussion on how the Pharmaceutical IG can disseminate such findings to assist in more effective regional management of the issue.

ET&C Special Issue

ET&C Special Issue

How to become a member of the Pharmaceutical Interest Group

SETAC members can become a member of the Pharmaceutical IG by selecting the "Pharmaceutical Interest Group" in their personal profile on the SETAC website. Non-SETAC members should send an email expressing their interest to the chair or co-chair of the Pharmaceutical IG.

For More Information

More information about the Pharmaceutical IG can be found on the other pages of this website or by contacting chair Mike Williams.


Recent Forum Activity
Ideas for topics for an IG Sponsored article
Posted by: Tamar H. Schlekat, 18 hours ago
Forum: IG Sponsored Articles
CHEM Trust Medicines in the Environment report
Posted by: Paul DeLeo, Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Forum: General Discussion
Meeting in Vancouver?
Posted by: Jeremy L. Conkle, Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Forum: General Discussion
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Posted in SETAC North America News, Monday, March 27, 2017

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