Combined environmental risk assessment for 5-fluorouracil and capecitabine in Europe


  • Jürg Oliver Straub

    Corresponding author
    1. Corporate Safety, Health & Environmental Protection, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, CSE 49/2.033, CH-4070 Basle, Switzerland
    • Corporate Safety, Health & Environmental Protection, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, CSE 49/2.033, CH-4070 Basle, Switzerland.
    Search for more papers by this author


An environmental risk assessment (ERA) was made for the old cytostatic active pharmaceutical ingredient 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and for capecitabine (CAP), which is a prodrug of 5-FU. This ERA is based on published and company internal data as well as new test results for physicochemical, human metabolism, biodegradability, environmental partitioning and fate, and acute and chronic ecotoxicity properties of the active substance 5-FU as well as on use sales data for 5-FU and CAP in Europe. Predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) were extrapolated following the EMEA 2006 Guideline on ERA for human pharmaceuticals and the European Union 2003 Technical Guidance Document (TGD) for risk assessment as well as the TGD-based application EUSES v2.0. Actual amounts sold were taken from IMS Health Databases, in order to refine the default use and EMEA penetration factor as well as the PECs. Moreover, available measured environmental concentrations (MECs) were used to supplement PECs. A predicted no-effect concentration (PNEC) for 5-FU was derived from chronic ecotoxicity data. Except for the simplistic EMEA Phase I default PEC, the risk characterization by PEC:PNEC and MEC:PNEC ratios for various environmental compartments resulted in no significant risk. As the EMEA Phase I PEC does not integrate documented human metabolism and environmental degradation, in contrast to refined PEC derivations, it is inferred that the current use of CAP and 5-FU does not present any evident risk to the environment. An additional evaluation of persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity (PBT) properties supports the conclusion of no significant environmental risk for 5-FU and CAP. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2010;6:540–566. © 2009 SETAC