Pharmaceuticals and the Environmental Goals in Sweden
Miljömålsberedningen (in English roughly ”The Review of Sweden’s National Environmental Objectives“) arranged a seminar yesterday regarding objective number 4: A Non-Toxic Environment. The seminar discussed two aspects in the on-going review of the objective:
- Sweden’s international initiatives connected to a non-toxic environment
- Pharmaceuticals and the Environment
The first speaker to enter the stage, after a brief introduction by Rolf Annerberg, chairman of Miljömålsberedningen and the moderator of the day, was Nina Cromnier, the Director General of Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI).
Nina gave us a background to the objective of a non-toxic environment, and said that it will be very difficult to reach until 2020. But with increased knowledge and information, and the removal of very toxic substances from the market, and neverending risk minimization strategies, she thought it could be reachable in the years following 2020. She summarized the challenges in the following way:
- There is a large number of different chemicals, a lot of them with unknown properties.
- Increased chemical production (approximately 3,5% annually).
- A huge number of different products with a whole range of chemicals inside.
- New type of substances and technology areas, e.g. nano-technology
- New challenging issues such as combination effects.
Nina said that she believes there is a need for stronger regulations, but also for economic incentives where applicable. Areas being evaluated in the ongoing review of the “Non-Toxic Environment Objective” are e.g.
- Green Chemistry and sustainable chemical development
Christina gave a general description of the issues and potential impacts of pharmaceutical substances in the environment. Read more about the issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment on MistraPharma’s web-page and in this publication from the European Environmental Agency.
Gisela Holm, eco-toxicologist from AstraZeneca, gave us the industry view of the issue.
Gisela was very clear in her message. The industry works hard and focused on all different issues around pharmaceuticals in the environment. These programs of course include both emissions related to excretion from patients, and releases from manufacturing operations around the globe. You can read more on e.g.
- The Swedish Environmental Classification Scheme for Pharmaceutical Substances on Fass.se
Gisela gave several examples of initiatives taken by companies, but also information on actions taken by LIF, the association of the research based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden. Examples of the latter would be e.g.
- Environmental classification on Fass.se
Gisela also mentioned the on-going governmental initiatives, in addition the Miljömålsberedningen:
- The Swedish National Pharmaceutical Strategy, and the focus area on “minimal environmental impact”
- The governmental commission to Swedish MPA on environmental requirements and GMP.
The latter example was of course a perfect bridge over to Charlotte Unger, Environmental Manager at Swedish MPA.
Charlotte said that she was very happy to see that government understands the need to clarify that pharmaceuticals is part of the goal on a non-toxic environment. Charlotte agreed with the previous speakers that patient excretion and manufacturing releases (especially in “low-cost countries” such as India) are the two hot topics to discuss. I was happy to hear her saying that “industry has come very far in addressing the issues, and might even have passed government when it comes to activities, programs and initiatives”. Miljömålsberedningen, together with the Pharmaceuticals Strategy and the GMP-commission, shows that “government also wants to participate in the process”. And that’s a good thing of course. Collaboration and utilization of different tools and solutions are key to success.
Based on the questions from the audiance to the speakers, I believe the seminar was very important to help the politicians and others participating in the review of the environemntal goals understand the specific issues around pharmaceuticals and the pharmaceutical market. One question was “why the industry would need economic incentives, shouldn’t the polluter pays principle apply”. Well, as I have stated very often, the pharmaceutical market is not a very typical market. Just look on the mandatory generic substitution. A prescribed pharmaceutical has to be substituted to the cheapest generic at the pharmacy desk. The environmental profile of the products does not make any difference what so ever. Only price matters… I think that it would be fair to request an economic incentive saying that green branded products should not be substituted to non-green generics, or at least requiring that a ptient should only have to pay the price difference between the generic and the green product of choice, and not the full cost. Read more on generic substitution e.g. on my blog post from May 5.
There will be more discussions on Miljömålsberedningen, A Non-Toxic Environment and pharmaceuticals in the weeks to come (e.g. June 7 and June 15). Stay tuned…