<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1514203202045471&ev=PageView&noscript=1"/> GREENER DRUGS: Let’s Tackle Pharmaceutical Pollution With A More Sustainable Approach | Core Spirit

GREENER DRUGS: Let’s Tackle Pharmaceutical Pollution With A More Sustainable Approach

Jun 15, 2024
Archana Ms.
Core Spirit member since Aug 24, 2023
Reading time 10 min.

Every facet of environmental protection is highlighted on World Environment Day, but did you realize that medications, which are necessary for human health, can have an impact on both land and aquatic environments?

The manufacturing process of drugs increases environmental pollution. Drug production, usage, and disposal result in the release of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), their metabolites, and transformation products (TPs) into our environment, contaminating global aquatic systems (such as groundwater, rivers, lakes, and oceans). This contamination, also known as drug or pharmaceutical pollution, poses risks to public health, environmental services, and biodiversity.

The UN Environment has identified Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as one of the main worldwide public health challenges, and these efforts are vital since drugs can have substantial negative effects on the environment.

Now, the industry aims to continue providing necessary pharmaceuticals while minimizing harm to the environment through the implementation of ‘Greener Drug’ methods. These greener drug practices are essential to mitigate further damage to our world, even though pharmaceuticals remain crucial for modern healthcare.

What are Greener Drugs and how are they manufactured?,

Greener Drugs are pharmaceuticals that are produced with a focus on minimizing their environmental impact both in the planning and manufacturing phases. A large amount of ecosystem contamination has resulted from active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), putting biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health at risk. Greener pharmaceuticals are now in high demand as a result of this.

In order to lessen the influence of pharmaceutical residues on the environment, a GREENER approach to pharmaceuticals entails identifying and fulfilling significant environmental requirements. This entails minimizing hazards, cutting exposure, preventing the use of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals, and preventing non-target consequences.

Molecular design approaches prioritizing environmental sustainability are used in the development of greener pharmaceuticals. Drug designers try to make molecules with as little of an effect on ecosystems as possible by taking into account variables including biodegradability, toxicity, and persistence.

Green chemistry, which seeks to create chemical products and procedures that lessen or completely stop the production of dangerous compounds, is the foundation upon which safer medications are built. The process used to create greener medications is as follows:

Substitution of Reagents and Solvents: Less dangerous and more ecologically friendly reagents and solvents are used by drug developers.

Process Optimization: To reduce waste and increase yield, the production process is optimized.

Renewable Energy Sources: The manufacturing operations are powered by renewable energy sources.

Continuous Processes: The introduction of continuous processes aims to decrease waste and increase efficiency.

Mature Analytical Techniques: In order to use less material, more sophisticated analytical techniques are used.

Using nature itself as a resource is another strategy for creating greener medications. The energy consumption and pollutants associated with creating synthetic compounds in a laboratory are largely, though not entirely, eliminated when pharmaceuticals are extracted directly from plants. But there are certain environmental considerations with this strategy.

Why do we need Greener drugs?,

Because pharmaceuticals pollute the environment, there is an urgent need to design and produce more environmentally friendly medications, according to a recent study published in 'Nature Sustainability'.

High amounts of pharmaceuticals have been found in water bodies due to the extensive use of medications throughout the world and their continued presence in conventional wastewater treatment systems. A comprehensive investigation examined 61 distinct medications in river water from 104 nations. It is shocking to see that medication levels exceeded safe ecological standards in 43 percent of the sites, with up to 34 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) dissolved into the water at some of the locations.

As a result, the pharmaceutical sector has acknowledged the need for greener medicine manufacturing techniques. The development of APIs with less of an adverse effect on the environment is a more environmentally friendly approach that may also be a more effective and long-term preventive measure. This method entails incorporating environmental factors into the process of finding and developing new drugs (also known as R&D for Research and Development).

How the pharmaceutical industry can improve drug design by incorporating ‘Green Chemistry’?,

By implementing the concepts of 'Green Chemistry', the pharmaceutical sector can redesign medicine formulations to make them more environmentally friendly. They can also investigate novel strategies including utilizing light-sensitive molecular triggers to make medications "photodegradable," which would induce the medicine to break down in the waste treatment plant. Another option is to create medications that are intrinsically less stable and attach them to stabilizers that are only transitory and dissolve once they enter the body. The pharmaceutical industry may considerably lessen the environmental impact of medicine manufacture and help create a more sustainable future by incorporating these tactics into research and development.

Greener medications are a weapon against pollution.

In addition to the manufacturing process, expired drugs when improperly disposed of, they can wind up in landfills and release toxic compounds into the surrounding air. Inadvertent ingestion or misuse might potentially result in health hazards. Therefore, the "benign by design" basis of the GREENER idea shows that decision-making should consider long-term vision and innovation in addition to environmental safety. Its main tenet is that patient health shouldn't be jeopardized in the name of environmental health protection.

This reorganization attempts to show a logical path from the issue of pharmaceutical pollution to the industry's acknowledgement of the problem and the consequent need for more environmentally friendly drug practices. It highlights the potential for innovation and long-term rewards through sustainable ways, while also emphasizing the necessity of solving this global environmental challenge.

Such diverse efforts are undertaken to guarantee that medications are both environmentally sustainable and beneficial to human health. Greener medications are made with a greater focus on environmental sustainability and a lower potential for pollution throughout the course of their whole life cycle. This covers the production, use, and disposal of the medication.

Greener medications reduce the possibility for pollution across the whole pharmaceutical production cycle, as drug design is the initial step in the process.

It is essential to dispose of medications properly to avoid contaminating soil and water sources. Greener pharmaceuticals are made to degrade more quickly, which lowers the possibility of persistent pollution from abandoned drugs. By taking these steps, the environmental impact of drug manufacture can be decreased and the effectiveness and environmental sustainability of the drugs can be guaranteed.

What are some examples of Greener Drug practices?,

The goal of greener medication practices is to reduce the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals across their whole life. Here are a few instances:

Green chemistry is the application of chemical principles to the construction of less harmful and more biodegradable pharmaceuticals.

Using manufacturing techniques that minimize waste, save energy, and make use of renewable resources is known as "sustainable manufacturing."

Creating packaging materials that are recyclable, biodegradable, or derived from renewable resources is known as eco-friendly packaging.

The goal of efficient drug delivery is to develop methods that use fewer dosages and less active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs).

Pharmaceutical Take-Back systems: To avoid contaminating the environment, systems for the safe disposal of old or expired pharmaceuticals should be established.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) - LCAs are used to assess how pharmaceuticals affect the environment from the point of manufacture to the point of disposal and to pinpoint areas that need improvement.

These procedures support the pharmaceutical industry's efficiency and sustainability in addition to aiding in environmental protection.

Worldwide initiatives to bring forth more environmentally friendly practices in the pharmaceutical sector,

The importance of sustainability is being recognized by the pharmaceutical sector, which is driving the global market for greener pharmaceuticals.

The United States is at the forefront, with companies like Pfizer using green chemistry ideas for medication development for more than 20 years in an effort to lessen their environmental impact and advance societal benefit. They use techniques including employing renewable energy sources, maximizing yield and minimizing waste, optimizing process conditions, and replacing dangerous solvents with less harmful and ecologically friendly alternatives. In addition, the United States is assessing the toxicity of current chemicals and passing climate change legislation, which pushes chemists to use green chemistry across the whole medication development process.

With programs and laws aiming at lessening the impact of drugs on the environment, other countries are also making progress in this area. Because of their widespread contamination, the European Union, for example, has designated several active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) as priority pollutants in water regulations.

All things considered, even while it's difficult to name one country as the pioneer of greener medications, it's evident that the pharmaceutical business is moving toward more environmentally friendly methods on a worldwide scale. The industry's own realization of the need for long-term sustainability, combined with customer demand for ecologically friendly products and regulatory pressures, are the driving forces behind this movement.

Some other notable initiative include:

Amgen's new production plant in Ohio is intended to be the most environmental and energy-efficient facility in the company's portfolio.

Novartis has established aggressive targets to reach net zero by 2040, complete carbon neutrality throughout the value chain by 2030, and carbon neutrality in its activities by 2025.

Under its flagship Ambition Zero Carbon program, AstraZeneca aims to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global operations (Scope 1 and 2) by 98% by 2026 (compared to a baseline of 2015) and halve its entire value chain footprint by 2030, with a goal of reducing GHG emissions by 90% by 2045 (compared to a baseline of 2019).

Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories have won awards for their environmental initiatives, which include using renewable energy sources and green chemistry.

Through waste reduction and process optimization, Bayer Healthcare aims to lessen its environmental effect.

Eli Lilly is dedicated to sustainability, as seen by programs like energy efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Roche/Genentech and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are two more of the prominent firms in the sector advancing sustainable practices.

Sanofi invests in sustainable packaging options and energy-efficient technologies with the goal of lowering its carbon impact.

These companies are a part of a greater pharmaceutical industry push to support responsible resource use, embrace environmental sustainability, and lessen their ecological footprint. They are establishing new standards for the industry's moral and environmentally responsible behavior.

Challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry in becoming greener,

Pharmaceutical firms may encounter many obstacles while implementing sustainable practices, such as:

High Energy Consumption: The industry requires a lot of energy for its manufacturing operations, making it an energy-intensive sector.

Waste Generation: The production of pharmaceuticals produces a lot of waste, which can be challenging to handle and dispose of in a sustainable manner.

Water Usage: Excessive water use is a problem, particularly in areas where there is a problem with water scarcity.

Carbon Footprint: Reducing the industry's carbon footprint is a difficult task, as it plays a role in climate change.

Environmental Impact: Reducing trash, decreasing carbon emissions, and keeping pharmaceuticals out of the environment are all important issues (Pharma in the Environment, or PIE).

Complexity of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain: Putting sustainable practices in place at every stage of the chain is difficult due to its complexity.

Regulatory Compliance: Businesses may find it difficult to implement new sustainable practices because of the intricate web of rules that differ by nation and location.

Cost Implications: Adopting sustainable practices may involve a large financial commitment, which some businesses may find prohibitive.

These problems call for a diversified strategy that incorporates creativity, teamwork, and a dedication to long-term sustainability objectives. Businesses have to strike a balance between the requirement to be profitable and the necessity to safeguard the public's health and environment.

So, it is imperative that the pharmaceutical sector tackle these issues in order to progress towards a more sustainable future.

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