This Pharmacy Made a Pill Out of the Chemicals Dumped by Pharma Factories in India

Talk about a hard pill

Is your drinking water giving you clay-colored stools? What about jaundice … or dark urine? 

Those are all signs of potential liver damage ... and can be side effects of Nevirapine, a drug used to treat HIV. Active ingredients of Nevirapine can be found in the water in Hyderabad, India, along with many other chemicals dumped by pharmaceutical factories in the region. 

Hyderabad is one of the biggest manufacturing cities for pharma. Like many before them, these industrial giants leverage the halos they enjoy in places with many needful hands and few regulations. So they've developed bad habits, like dumping super-toxic waste into the rivers, where millions of people draw water for everyday use. 

They deny this.

But with help from Åkestam Holst, a member of The North Alliance collective, as well as The Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), Apotek Hjärtat—Sweden's biggest private pharmacy—created Sordidum Pharmacum, a new kind of medicine. You really shouldn't take it, though. 

The pills were created by taking samples of Hyderabad's river water—the Musi, we presume—and extracting the active compounds. "RISE analyzed 100 liters of water, from which they were able to extract 59 grams of the powder that Sordidum Pharmacum consists of," says Åkestam Holst art director, Joakim Khoury, to Muse.

"Each pill contains 30 mg of active medical substances. That comes from 0.5 grams of powder, making a total of 120 pills possible." 

Sordidum Pharmacum contains active substances from the following medications: Fluconazole (for treating fungal infections), Losartan (hypertension), Tramadol (severe pain), Levetiracetam (epilepsy), Anastrozole (breast cancer), and Nevirapine (HIV). Its goal is to shed light on the absence of environmental regulation in the production of medicinal drugs.

"We know for sure that the impact of pharma pollution on the environment is substantial," Åkestam Holst strategist, Karl Wikstrom, tells us. Its effects include "increasing the risk for growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, undrinkable water, crop failure, and harming local ecosystems."

Because it's too great a task to expect multiple governments to step in and police their conglomos, Apotek Hjärtat has created its own green label for placement on the drugs it sells, guaranteeing the ethical production of medication to consumers, with whom the hope of driving change now rests.

"As long as pharmaceutical factories keep polluting, the medicine we buy to make us healthier risks making people, and nature, sicker in other parts of the world, which Apotek Hjärtat thinks is unacceptable," Wikstrom says.

More information can be found at the microsite, Hard Pill to Swallow. Five packs of Sordidum Pharmacum were created in total, containing ten pills each. 

Where will those little side-effect funpacks be going? 

"The pills will be on display at the Apotek Hjärtat headquarters," says Khoury. "Replicas of the packaging—containing dummy pills, for obvious reasons—will be sent to the politicians responsible, as a direct message. All pills will be destroyed by RISE in a safe environment after the campaign has ended."

Profile picture for user Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.

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