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What Happens to Pharmaceutical Waste?

  • Pharma
  • Absorbance
  • High Resolution Spectrometers

Researchers using optical emission spectroscopy have tested the degradation efficiency of different plasma-jet processes on solutions of the medication Valsartan, identifying the emission peaks of each sample’s reactive species.

With growing awareness of the potential for harm from pharmaceuticals waste, researchers are investigating new methods to treat this waste by degrading compounds that can adversely affect the environment. In one instance, researchers in India are using spectroscopy to test the efficiency of plasma-based degradation processes in the breakdown of Valsartan, a medication used to treat hypertension and heart failure that is not typically fully metabolized by patients.

Ultimately, the intent is to degrade pharmaceutical compounds in wastewater to reduce or eliminate harmful effects on humans and aquatic life.

About the Research

As reported in a 2020 article in RSC Advances1, the researchers used optical emission spectroscopy to test the degradation efficiency of different plasma-jet processes on Valsartan solutions, as the distinct emission peaks of each sample’s reactive species were readily identified.

An Ocean Insight HR series spectrometer collected the response from 200-1100 nm, with a robust optical fiber sampling setup placed near the plasma treatment area. The flexibility and ease of the setup made testing multiple treatment processes simpler to manage.

Equipment Used

  • HR4000CG-UV-NIR high-resolution spectrometer (200-1100 nm). Our newer HR4Pro series spectrometers provide even better performance (including greater thermal stability) and are ideal for high resolution over a broad wavelength range.

  • QP400-2-SR-BX solarization-resistant optical fiber. This 400 µm core diameter optical fiber is resistant to UV degradation and has rugged BX stainless steel jacketing.

  • 74-UV collimating lenses. In this application, lenses were attached to the optical fiber to collect spectra from the plasma.

Why Pharmaceutical Waste Matters

The market for anti-hypertension medications alone -- including Valsartan -- was estimated at $25 billion in 2018. Also, in one recent study conducted by Florida International University, evidence of nearly 60 different pharmaceuticals in 93 bonefish samples was discovered over a three-year period2.

Dealing with the potential impact of harmful compounds from other medications making their way into the environment will require cooperation among manufacturers, the health care industry, government agencies and the public.

One important element of this effort is access to simple, robust and flexible tools like modular spectrometers to help researchers, regulators and industry engineers quickly assess the efficacy of different treatments for pharmaceuticals waste.

References

  1. Raji, A., Pandiyaraj, K. Navaneetha, Vasu, D., Ramkumar, M.C., Deshmukh, R.R., and Kandavelu, V. Non-equilibrium atmospheric pressure plasma assisted degradation of the pharmaceutical drug valsartan: influence of catalyst and degradation environment, RSC Advances, Issue 59, 29 Sep 2020.

  2. Azhar, A. Fish on Valium: A Multitude of Prescription Drugs Are Contaminating Florida’s Waterways and Marine Life, Inside Climate News, March 2, 2022.

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