My visit in Almedalen has begun…

So, today I arrived in Visby, Gotland, to participate in the ”political summit in Almedalen”. You know from my blog post last Friday that I will be here in beautiful Almedalen during the week.

A sunny Almedalen...

A sunny Almedalen...

The first seminar I visited was a discussion about pharmaceuticals arranged by our Green Party (”Miljöpartiet”). The participants described a whole range of problems, or challenges, with pharmaceuticals, for instance:

- releases from manufacturing and patient excreation of active substances

- use of multiple (10 or more) pharmaceuticals simultaneously with unknown potential interactions

- adverse effects, e.g. depression

The seminar also presented the Green Party’s suggested solutions. And many of them are very easy to agree with. There was for instance the discussion of the need to review the list of pharmaceuticals for especially elderly people regularly (in Swedish: ”Läkemedelsgenomgångar”), prescribing physical activity when possible and relevant (in Swedish: FAR – ”fysiskt arbete på recept”), environmental considerations in the choice of medicines when possible and relevant, the need of more research, and etcetera. The seminar had a very negative, or pessimistic, approach to start out with, but when the discussion pointed to solutions it became more optimistic. And the industry in general, and LIF – the association of the research based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden – specifically, was given cred for among other things the initiative Environmental Classification of Pharmaceuticals Substances. Thanks, very appreciated!

I then followed a discussion about the implementation of LEAN within Swedish healthcare. For more details on LEAN, read for instance my blogposts from Nov 19, 2010 and Nov 15, 2011. The County Council in Gävleborg gave us some insights in their experiences from working with a LEAN-approach. I am happy to hear that they remain focused on this. I participated in a similar seminar last year in Almedalen, and the success seem to continue!

After lunch I worked together with several LIF colleagues, presenting vårdfrågan.nu. Follow that link, and learn about what Swedes think about healthcare issues…

My next seminar was a discussion on public procurement and environmental and social sustainability criteria. Very interesting to listen to representatives from county councils, lawyers, the National Board of Trade, and MSR (the Swedish Environmental Management Council). As you know, MSR, have developed criteria documents for several products (including pharmaceuticals). The interesting discussion here was how ”tough” these environmental and/or social criteria could be without jeopardizing free trade within Europe and limiting competition. As I say interesting, and apparantly still somewhat unclear… I have said many times that I think many of these requirements/criteria are good, as long as the county councils review industry’s responses and do follow-ups. For more info on this topic please read my previous blog posts from e.g. March 13, 2012, and Dec 1, 2011.

And as always during the political summit, at 7 pm we all gathered to listen to a party leader giving his/her speech. Today is was Åsa Romson from the Green Party. Looking forward to new interesting seminars tomorrow, more promotion of vårdfrågan.nu, and yet another party leader speech.

How important is sustainability to a Swede?

In today’s issue of MiljöRapporten Direkt (a daily sustainability newsletter from MiljöRapporten that you know I think highly of), I found an interesting article discussing the results from a survey called Sverigestudien (in English it would roughly be ”the Sweden Study”). It is an initiative from Preera, Volvo IT, and Skandia where Swedes’ values regarding themselves, their workplaces, and society are monitored and analyzed. You can read more about the initiative via this link.

MiljöRapprten Direkt comments upon the fact that the study shows that values such as environment and sustainability have fallen on Swedes’ priority lists. Gunnel Eneroth, project manager for Sverigestudien, says the following to MiljöRapporten Direkt:

”Före finanskrisen var miljö och hållbarhet högre värderade begrepp, sedan tappade de värderingarna i betydelse och har inte hämtat sig sedan dess” (in English it would be something like ”before the financial crises, environment and sustainability were ranked higher, but they have fallen since then and not made it back”)

Personally I do however find it somewhat comforting and promising that other values which are also critical for longterm sustainability still seem to be highly ranked among Swedes:

Responsibility, justice, and honesty

To me those values are also very closely related to Corporate Responsibility (in Swedish: ”Ansvarsfullt företagande” of which you can read more on pfizer.se for instance). If citizens, politicians, corporate leaders and employees have such values in focus, and act accordingly, I am convinced that environmental and social sustainability will remain fundamental to our society. And values such as environment and sustainbility will once again climb on the priority lists!

Read about all the details of Sverigestudien in this pdf. It is an interesting read!

A day in the life of an environmental manager…

I have to admit that I just love a work-day like this one! This morning we will have a meeting with the local environment, health and safety (EHS) committee at the Swedish Pfizer headquarter in Sollentuna. And in the afternoon, we have a meeting with LIF’s (the association of the research based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden) environmental committee.

This means that the morning discussions are devoted to local EHS challenges such as ventilation issues, slip, trip and fall risks, ergonomic issues, and fire life safety. Issues that are very concrete and where all actions taken are visible almost directly in our local work environment. Very stimulating!

But if I, as an environmental manager in a multinational company like Pfizer, would not be challenged with more global EHS issues I would not be very satisfied in the long run. Hence, I am very pleased to participate in LIF’s environmental committee meeting later today. On the agenda we’ll find issues such as

- the proposal to include three active pharmaceutical ingredients on the list of priority substances within the EU Water Framework Directive,

- the environmental initiatives within the National Pharmaceutical Strategy, e.g.
— Sofia Wallström’s review whether or not environmental considerations should be taken in the Swedish pricing and re-imbursement system and
— the design of green criteria for pharmaceutical products and green economic incentives (i.e. the project I lead on my part time assigment at LIF)

- the All Party Committee on Environemntal Objectives and their initiatives around Pharmaceuticals and the Environment as part of their work with ”A Non-Toxic Environment”

- the Globe Forum Event on April 26, when we hope to see several interesting innovations within the field of pharmaceutucals and the environment (presumably with a focus on waste water treatment)

- the campaign on unused medicines which is ongoing at all Swedish pharmacies in March and April

Looking forward to the meetings today! It will be both fun and interesting!

If you want to read more on these issues please use the following links to some earlier blog posts: Nov 29, 2011, Jan 9, 2012Jan 24, 2012, Feb 21, 2012, and March 19, 2012.

Unused Medicines – bring them back to a pharmacy

Today is the start for a campaign regarding the importance of bringing unused medicines back to a pharmacy. The campaign runs on all Swedish pharmacies until April 16. There is also a campaign website, överblivnaläkemedel.se, with relevant information.

LIF, the research based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden, have issued a press release today about the campaign. Some of the content in the press release reads as follows:

Återlämna alltid överblivna läkemedel till apotek!

Behandling av sjukdomar med läkemedel har förbättrat folkhälsan radikalt.  Många av de som föds idag här i Sverige förväntas få uppleva sin 100-års dag. Det är i sanning en fantastisk utveckling. Men för att säkerställa att samhället får ut maximal nytta från läkemedel är det viktigt att all läkemedelshantering sker med god kontroll av såväl hälsoaspekter, som säkerhets- och miljöaspekter. Ett område där vi alla kan hjälpa till att minska eventuella negativa miljöeffekter är att se till att överblivna läkemedel alltid lämnas tillbaka till ett apotek. Läkemedel ska inte kastas i hushållssoporna eller spolas ner i toaletten. Om överblivna läkemedel lämnas tillbaka till apotek minskar inte bara eventuell miljöpåverkan utan risker för att läkemedel kommer på avvägar och utgör risk för exempelvis barn elimineras också.

Måndagen den 19 mars startar en nationell kampanj, bland annat på Sveriges alla apotek, för att öka medvetenheten om att överblivna läkemedel ska lämnas till apotek. LIF – de forskande läkemedelsbolagen, har varit projektledare för att utveckla kampanjen i nära samarbete med sektorns övriga intressenter…

Huvudbudskap för kampanjen är att oberoende av var någonstans man har köpt ett läkemedel, vare sig det är i dagligvaruhandeln eller på apotek, så kan överblivna läkemedel lämnas tillbaka till vilket apotek som helst. Kampanjen syftar till att öka återlämnadegraden av överblivna läkemedel till de 80% som satts som mål i den nationella läkemedelsstrategin. Kampanjen är därmed en viktig del Läkemedelsverkets projekt inom nationella läkemedelsstrategin: ”Utreda vilka ytterligare åtgärder som kan vidtas på nationell nivå för att minska kassationen av läkemedel eller på annat sätt begränsa miljöpåverkan av läkemedelsanvändning”. Undersökningar kommer genomföras i samband med kampanjen för att utröna läkemedelskonsumenters
medvetenhet i frågan men också i vilken grad de verkligen återlämnar överblivna läkemedel…

Kampanjens samarbetspartners:
Läkemedelsverket, Avfall Sverige, Sveriges kommuner och landsting (SKL), Föreningen för generiska läkemedel (FGL), Svenskt vatten, Sveriges Apoteksförening, Håll Sverige Rent, Läkemedelsdistributörsföreningen”

More on the new Swedish PiE data…

On January 10, I gave some comments here at the blog to the press release and report regarding IVL’s, Umeå University’s, and Swedish EPA’s new data regarding pharmaceutical residues in incoming waste water to waste water treatment facilities, in the effluent from those facilities, and in receving water bodies as well as in some cases also in fish. The study is ”breaking news” in today’s issue of one of Sweden’s most influencal science and engineering weekly news magazines, NyTeknik. Ny Teknik presents, in addition to a very similar discussion as was found in the original press release, also an interesting article on new waste water treatment technology experiments at Sjöstadsverket performed by scientists from IVL and KTH.

One thing that I also want to comment is that both on the front page of the NyTeknik newspaper that arrived in my mailbox this morning as well as on their website, another news article regarding pharmaceuticals is highlighted just next to the worrying news about presence of pharmaceutical residues in the environment. But this article is presented in a very ”positive” way: ”Take a pill – and skip your work-out training”. ”The work-out pill is soon a reality”…

I do often find it somewhat disturbing that reports about pharmaceuticals are either ”scary alarms” or ”magical innovative news”. It has however rarely been as clearly shown as on the front page of today’s NyTeknik… I would prefer a more balanced discussion, both regarding the worrying reports as well as the promising innovations. Life is very rarely completely black or white!