As climate change alters environmental conditions, the incidence and global patterns of human diseases are changing. These modifications to disease profiles and the effects upon human pharmaceutical usage are discussed. Climate-related environmental changes are associated with a rise in the incidence of chronic diseases already prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere, for example, cardiovascular disease and mental illness, leading to greater use of associated heavily used Western medications. Sufferers of respiratory diseases may exhibit exacerbated symptoms due to altered environmental conditions (e.g., pollen). Respiratory, water-borne, and food-borne toxicants and infections, including those that are vector borne, may become more common in Western countries, central and eastern Asia, and across North America. As new disease threats emerge, substantially higher pharmaceutical use appears inevitable, especially of pharmaceuticals not commonly employed at present (e.g., antiprotozoals). The use of medications for the treatment of general symptoms (e.g., analgesics) will also rise. These developments need to be viewed in the context of other major environmental changes (e.g., industrial chemical pollution, biodiversity loss, reduced water and food security) as well as marked shifts in human demographics, including aging of the population. To identify, prevent, mitigate, and adapt to potential threats, one needs to be aware of the major factors underlying changes in the use of pharmaceuticals and their subsequent release, deliberately or unintentionally, into the environment. This review explores the likely consequences of climate change upon the use of medical pharmaceuticals in the Northern Hemisphere.
© Clare H. Redshaw, Will M. Stahl-Timmins, Lora E. Fleming, Iain Davidson, and Michael H. Depledge.