Express Pharma

Sustainable pharmaceuticals: Addressing environmental concerns

Dr Amit Pandit, School of Pharmacy & Technology Management, NMIMS, Indore & Shirpur Campuses, explores the imperative for the pharma industry to adopt eco-friendly practices; and discusses challenges, innovative solutions, and exemplary initiatives between all stakeholders to curb environmental footprint

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In today’s pharma industry, “sustainable pharmaceuticals” refers to practices that prioritise minimising environmental impact while promoting public health and social responsibility. This includes eco-friendly manufacturing, waste reduction, and responsible disposal. It underscores the need for companies to balance profitability with environmental and social concerns, aiming for a healthier, more sustainable future. Addressing environmental concerns in pharma is crucial due to the significant impact of pharma production, usage, and disposal on ecosystems and human health. This includes pollution from manufacturing processes, contamination of waterways, and the development of antimicrobial resistance. By prioritising sustainability in pharma, we can mitigate these negative impacts, protect ecosystems, and safeguard public health for future generations. In the wake of growing environmental awareness, concerns are mounting over the significant impact of pharma on ecosystems worldwide. From manufacturing processes to disposal, every stage of the pharma lifecycle presents potential hazards that necessitate urgent attention.

Navigating pollution, waste, and resistance: A call to sustainable action

The pharma industry is a major contributor to environmental pollution, with manufacturing processes releasing a plethora of harmful pollutants into the air, water, and soil. These chemicals, ranging from solvents to heavy metals, pose significant risks to both environmental and human health. Another pressing issue is improper disposal of pharma products, including expired or unused medications. Often, these drugs find their way into water sources through sewage systems or landfill leachate, contaminating ecosystems and endangering aquatic life. The infiltration of pharma products into water bodies poses a grave threat to aquatic ecosystems. Accumulation of these drugs can disrupt the delicate balance of aquatic life, impacting species’ health and behaviour and leading to ecological imbalances. Further, the rampant use and inadequate disposal of antibiotics contribute significantly to the development of antimicrobial resistance. Resistant bacteria, fuelled by pharma pollutants, pose a serious threat to public health, agricultural systems, and environmental sustainability. The urgency of addressing these environmental concerns cannot be overstated. Pharma companies, regulatory bodies, and consumers must collaborate to implement sustainable practices, reduce pollution, and safeguard ecosystems. Failure to act swiftly could have far-reaching consequences for both environmental integrity and human well-being.

Driving environmental innovation: Green chemistry, waste management, and sustainable packaging in pharma

In the quest for a greener future, pharma companies are embracing innovative strategies to minimise their environmental footprint. From manufacturing to disposal, these efforts aim to revolutionise the industry’s approach to sustainability. Pharma manufacturers are increasingly adopting green chemistry principles. By using renewable resources, reducing hazardous chemicals, and implementing energy-efficient processes, they aim to mitigate environmental impact without compromising on product quality. Also proper disposal of pharma waste is a priority. Companies are focusing on ensuring the safe disposal of expired drugs to prevent contamination of water sources and ecosystems. Recycling programmes are being implemented to reduce waste generation, while advanced technologies are being employed to treat pharma wastewater effectively. Furthermore, the development of eco-friendly packaging is gaining momentum. Biodegradable materials are being utilised to minimise landfill waste, while efforts to reduce packaging and offer recyclable options are being prioritised. These initiatives not only reduce environmental impact but also cater to consumer demand for sustainable packaging solutions.

Lifecycle assessments are becoming standard practice within the pharma industry. By assessing environmental impacts from production to disposal, companies can recognise zones for improvement and apply targeted plans to improve sustainability throughout the product lifecycle. As environmental concerns continue to grow, the pharma industry’s commitment to sustainability has never been more critical. These innovative strategies not only demonstrate a dedication to environmental accountability but also cover the way for a more sustainable future for generations to come.

India’s sustainable pharma agenda: Regulations, initiatives, and collaborative partnerships

The Indian government has taken several actions to address environmental concerns related to pharma. The first is rules for pharma waste management. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in India has formulated guidelines and regulations under the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, which govern the disposal of pharma waste. These rules mandate the proper segregation, collection, treatment, and disposal of biomedical waste, including pharma, to prevent environmental contamination. Government also launch national action plan for antimicrobial resistance (NAP-AMR). This plan aims to improve antibiotic stewardship, regulate antibiotic use in humans and animals, enhance surveillance of antimicrobial resistance, and promote research on new antibiotics and alternatives. Further, the Indian government has encouraged the adoption of green chemistry principles in the pharma industry to lessen the environmental impact of manufacturing processes.

Initiatives such as the Green Chemistry Cell at the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals support research and development in eco-friendly chemistry. Also the use of renewable energy sources in pharma manufacturing facilities are been promoted by implemented various incentive schemes. It includes subsidies, tax benefits, and favourable financing options to encourage the adoption of solar, wind, and other renewable energy technologies. As a collaborative effort, the Indian government team ups with pharma industry associations, research institutions, and international organisations to address environmental concerns. Initiatives such as joint research projects, knowledge-sharing platforms, and capacity building programmes facilitate collaboration among stakeholders to develop sustainable solutions for the pharma sector. These actions reflect the Indian government’s commitment to addressing environmental concerns in the pharma industry and promoting sustainable practices to safeguard public health and the environment.

Overcoming hurdles: Addressing economic, technological, and awareness challenges in pharma sustainability

While the pursuit of sustainable practices in the pharma industry is gaining momentum, several key challenges must be addressed to pave the way for a greener future. The adoption of sustainable practices often encounters economic barriers, with high initial investment costs and potential impacts on profit margins. Companies face challenges in balancing sustainability objectives with financial viability. Overcoming these barriers requires innovative financing mechanisms, strategic planning, and a long-term vision that recognises the intrinsic value of sustainability beyond short-term economic gains. The second challenge is applicability of new technologies. Despite advancements in green chemistry and renewable energy technologies, certain pharma processes still rely on resource-intensive or environmentally harmful methods. Overcoming these technological limitations necessitates continued research and development efforts, interdisciplinary collaboration, and investment in cutting-edge innovations. By leveraging emerging technologies, the industry can develop more sustainable alternatives and reduce its environmental footprint. Another significant challenge is lack education and awareness among stakeholders. Many individuals within the pharma industry, including manufacturers, healthcare professionals, and consumers, may not fully understand the environmental impact of pharmas or the importance of sustainable practices. Addressing this challenge requires comprehensive education initiatives, training programs, and public awareness campaigns to empower stakeholders to make informed decisions and advocate for sustainability.

Addressing these challenges requires collaborative efforts from industry stakeholders, policymakers, and the broader community. By overcoming economic barriers, leveraging technological innovations, enhancing education and awareness, and integrating sustainability into R&D practices, the pharma industry can move towards a more environmentally responsible and socially conscious future.

Leading the charge: Exemplary sustainable initiatives in the pharma industry

There are many inspiring success stories of sustainable initiatives from Indian pharma industries that have made a tangible difference. From implementing green manufacturing processes to launching recycling programs for pharma waste, these initiatives showcase the potential for positive environmental impact within the sector. Some are mentioned here –

  1. Sun Pharma has been actively involved in various sustainability initiatives. They have implemented measures to reduce water and energy consumption in their manufacturing processes. Additionally, they have initiatives in place to reduce waste generation and promote recycling and reuse of materials. Sun Pharma also invests in community development projects focusing on healthcare, education, and environmental conservation.

  1. Dr Reddy’s Foundation (DRF) has been working on several sustainability fronts. They have implemented green chemistry practices in their manufacturing processes to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. The company also focuses on reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency. Dr. Reddy’s has initiatives for responsible waste management and recycling. They also engage in various social responsibility programs focusing on healthcare access and education.

  2. Cipla Foundation has a strong commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The company has implemented several eco-friendly initiatives in its manufacturing facilities, such as water and energy conservation measures and waste management practices. Cipla is also involved in various community development programs, including healthcare access, education, and skill development.

  3. Lupin has been actively working on sustainability initiatives across its operations through the Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation (LHWRF). They have implemented measures to reduce water and energy consumption and minimise waste generation. Lupin also focuses on green packaging solutions to reduce the environmental impact of its products. The company invests in community welfare programs, including healthcare services and education, to contribute to social development.

  4. Biocon has been integrating sustainability into its business strategy. They have initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, optimise energy usage, and minimise water consumption. Biocon also focuses on sustainable sourcing practices for raw materials and implements waste reduction and recycling measures. The company is involved in various CSR initiatives, including healthcare access, education, and environmental conservation.

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