The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has backed calls for the UK Government to increase knowledge and understanding of human and ecological risks caused by the presence of pharmaceutical products in water bodies.

The environmental impact of pharmaceuticals is one of a number of issues highlighted in a newly published policy report by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change (UKHACC).

The report outlines ‘a cycle of events’ contributing to poor health, climate change and the loss of nature, and the RPS has joined the UKHACSS’s call on the government to increase action to protect natural ecosystems for the benefit of the nation’s health.

According to the RPS, a lack of action will result in an increase in non-communicable diseases, and will also reduce capacity to develop new medicines and antimicrobial resistance.

Professor Claire Anderson, RPS president, said: ‘Those in power must recognise the reality of the warnings made in this report and take urgent and firm action to protect nature.

‘Medicines are a crucial intervention in healthcare [but] we recognise the environmental impact of pharmaceutical products on the environment and our waters.’

Professor Anderson added that the RPS was committed to working with other health organisations towards increased awareness and action in this area.

‘Together, with a united effort, we can contribute to the preservation of our natural world and the wellbeing of future generations,’ she said.

In the summer, researchers identified a ‘staggering’ amount of prescription drugs in sea water off the UK’s South Coast, alongside pesticides and illegal drugs such as cocaine.

The findings, released in June, highlighted the issue of chemical pollution from wastewater, which researchers said posed a threat to aquatic ecosystems and marine life.

A Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: ‘The UK’s natural environment is a crucial part of our islands, and our Plan for Water and Environmental Improvement Plan are just two examples of the more investment, stronger regulation, and tougher enforcement we’re taking to leave nature in a better state.

‘That’s alongside our new Environment Act’s legally-binding targets, which will further drive our efforts to ensure clean and plentiful water, less waste and more sustainable use of our resources, a step change in tree planting, cleaner air, and a better marine environment –  and will contribute to improving the nation’s health.’