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Issues around household pharmaceutical waste disposal through community pharmacies in Croatia


Background Croatian regulations mandate pharmacies to receive unused medicines from households. Pharmacies are considered as producers and holders of pharmaceutical waste and are obliged to finance this service. Model where pharmacies are responsible for financing disposal of unused medicines without reimbursement is not common in Europe. Present service was not tested before implementation. Objective To investigate the elements of the pharmaceutical waste disposal service provided by pharmacies, and to gain insight into the factors that might influence the effectiveness of the service. Setting All pharmacies in the city of Zagreb. Method Each pharmacy was asked to weigh the collected waste from the public during a period of 30 days, between June 1st and July 10th of 2011, absent from any media advertisement and answer a specifically designed questionnaire that was exploring possible connections between the amount of collected waste, type of pharmacy ownership, discretion while disposing, location of the container, appropriate labeling and to compare the amount of collected waste between neighborhoods. Main outcome measure Quantity of collected unused medicines from the public. Results Of 210 pharmacies, 91 participated completing the questionnaire (43 % response rate). The total amount of collected waste was 505 kg. Pharmacies owned by the city of Zagreb had higher response rate (74 %) than privately owned pharmacies (36 %), and collected significantly higher amount of waste. Anonymity when disposing influenced collected quantity, while labelling and location of the container did not. There were differences in the amount of collected waste between neighborhoods due to the demographic characteristics and number of pharmacies per capita. Conclusion The effectiveness of the pharmacy service of collecting unused medicines in Croatia shows a number of weaknesses. The amount of collected medicines is below the European average. Functioning of the service seems to be negatively influenced by the type of pharmacy ownership, distribution of pharmacies and lack of anonymity when disposing unused medicines. Additionally, type of ownership is connected with financial burden for pharmacies. Governmental bodies should examine current legislation regulating pharmaceutical waste disposal, particularly financial responsibility for providing the service, in order to increase pharmacies’ compliance. Advertising of the service may increase awareness of the importance of proper disposal of unused medicines.

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We thank The Croatian Chamber of Pharmacists for assistance in data collection and all pharmacies who participated in this study.


The study was funded by the non-governmental organization “PIN Partnership-Information-Networking for Health”, Zagreb, Croatia.

Conflicts of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Danijela Jonjić.

Appendix: Questionnaire

Appendix: Questionnaire

  1. 1.

    Information about the collection of pharmaceutical waste

Please specify:

  • Are citizens providing pharmaceutical waste in the containers anonymously, or handing over to the pharmacist or pharmaceutical technician?

  • Are the containers for pharmaceutical waste located in the customer area or behind the counter in the pharmacist’s area?

  • Please indicate what is written as the label for the pharmaceutical waste containers in your pharmacy.

  • The amount of pharmaceutical waste collected from households during the period from 1st of June 2011 to 10th of July 2011: _____________________________________ (kg)

  1. 2.

    Pharmacy neighborhood and ownership type

  • Pharmacy neighborhood location (please circle the appropriate letter):

a. Črnomerec i. Sesvete
b. Trešnjevka North j. Donja Dubrava
c. Trešnjevka South k. Gornja Dubrava
d. Trnje l. Peščenica—Zitnjak
e. Downtown m. New Zagreb—East
f. Uppertown n. New Zagreb—West
g. Podsljeme o. Maksimir
h. Medvescak p. Podsused-Vrapče
  s. Stenjevec
  • Form of pharmacy ownership (please circle the appropriate letter):

  1. a.

    private independent pharmacy

  2. b.

    leased pharmacy

  3. c.

    private pharmacy chain

  4. d.

    pharmacy owned by the city of Zagreb

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Jonjić, D., Vitale, K. Issues around household pharmaceutical waste disposal through community pharmacies in Croatia. Int J Clin Pharm 36, 556–563 (2014).

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  • Croatia
  • Disposal
  • Household waste
  • Pharmaceutical waste
  • Pharmacies
  • Unused medicines