YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Disposal of useless and expired drugs–mostly left over from foreign humanitarian aid–is proving to be a serious problem for the Armenian authorities that lack appropriate facilities to cope with it–officials said on Monday.
"The situation is alarming," said Margarita Vartanian–chief of a state drug agency. The first massive supplies of drugs to Armenia began in December 1988 following a devastating earthquake that killed some 25,000 people. Humanitarian aid from mainly Western countries has since regularly poured into the country.
Vartanian told RFE/RL that many of the supplied drugs had little time remaining to their expiration date and have grown into huge stockpiles that must be destroyed. She said there are also expired drugs imported by local commercial organizations. She declined to give any figures–saying that the government is currently assessing the scale of the problem.
There have been reported instances of inappropriate drugs dumped on other poor countries by pharmaceutical companies–but a study by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that the problem is exaggerated–Reuters reported on Monday. Still–the study revealed that at least 25 percent of donations sent by private relief organizations were near their expiration date. The research was based on interviews with aid recipients in three countries – Armenia–Tanzania and Haiti.
Armenian experts say combustion is the most effective way of destroying the useless medications. According to Vartanian–this requires special furnaces to stave off poisonous smoke emissions to the atmosphere–which Armenia does not have.