A seminar was arranged yesterday by the Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences (in Swedish: Apotekarsocieteten) regarding Green Pharmaceuticals.
Görel Skogsmo, the chairman of Apotekarsocietetens division for Pharmaceutical Information opened the seminar with a warm welcome to the audience, the moderator Ingrid Stenberg from the magazine "Läkemedelsvärlden" and to the speakers:
Ingrid Stenberg, gave a brief background to the discussions on pharmaceuticals in the environment. Among the things she mentioned was the first article she wrote in Läkemedelsvärlden regarding releases of Active Pharmaceutical Ingridients (APIs) in India, back in 2007. In a quote by me in that article it seemed like the industry was somewhat surprised and almost questioned if a situation with large releases could really be true:
"Bengt Mattson, ordförande i Läkemedelsindustriföreningens miljökommitté, vill ännu inte se de här resultaten som allmängiltiga. – Det här är en liten studie med vatten insamlat under bara två dagar. Jag tror inte att det ser ut så här generellt, det skulle vara överraskande om industrin skulle släppa ifrån sig så mycket värdefulla substanser. Och resultaten överensstämmer inte med de, i och för sig begränsande undersökningar som vi inom industrin har gjort tidigare.
Läkemedelsindustriföreningen ska nu gå igenom rapporten noga och efter det besluta hur de ska gå vidare. – Om det stämmer att det ser ut så här är det naturligtvis allvarligt, och då måste vi hitta ett sätt att angripa problemet, säger Bengt Mattson."
As we know today, the results has been confirmed and we are all working together to solve the problems. Read more about the releases in my previous blog post, e.g. Aug 16, 2010.
I gave a brief general introduction about green pharmaceuticals, e.g. examples of green characteristics, and then some more details about the the releases of APIs in Patancheru outside Hyderabad in India (research conducted by Cecilia dePedro, Joakim Larsson and co-workers). I finished of my presentation by talking about green economic incentives as a means to drive the industry and the sector in the right direction. Read about green economic incentives in my blog posts, e.g. May 17, May 12, and March 28.
I finished my presentation by showing a slide with "4 steps to a sustainable use of pharmaceuticals".
Charlotte Unger then gave the MPA's perspective on the pharmaceuticals in the environment issue. She was happy to see the close collaborations between all stakeholders to solve the problems.
She both touched on ideas such as "economic incentives" as well as on potantial changes in the GMP-regulation. Read more on the latter in my blog post from Jan 5, 2011. Charlotte's key message was that public health is closely linked to environmental issues. And she was happy to mention all the different initiatives on-going to take steps in the right direction:
- MPA's governmental commission on GMP and environmental requirements
- The National Pharmaceutical Strategy and the discussions there on sustainability
- LIF's round-table discussions on environmental assessments and green economic incentives
- "Miljömålsberedningen" (the review of Sweden's environmental objectives, where pharmaceuticals and the environment is a hot topic for the moment)
Inger Näsman then gave the pharmacy chain's perspective on these discussions. Inger showed what a pharmacy chain such as Kronans Droghandel does to minimze the environemntal impacts in their daily operations. However, their possibilities to take "green actions" when it comes to the pharmaceuticals are extremely limited. She criticized the system with "the product of the period" ("periodens vara" in Swedish). The mandatory substitution of the prescribed medicin to the product of the period, i.e. the cheapest generic, is problematic from the environmental perspective in a number of ways. The product can have a huge ecological footprint, but still be the substitute of another "much greener" product. Since the product of the period may change every period it can result in a lot of cassation as well. Inger called for a change of the system, and received a lot of support for that opinion by the participants at the seminar.
After our presentations, the seminar became an open discussion on what can be done and what needs to be done. Some of the questions that were raised by Ingrid Stenberg were:
- Should green pharmaceuticals receive incentives? And if so, what kind of incentives?
- How do you define a green pharmaceutical? Does "greenness" include both imapcts from the product/substance itself and impacts from manufacturing and distribution?
- Which actions do you want to see from the agencies, from the industry, and from the pharmacies?
I was happy to see that not only were the presenters well aligned, but the audiance agreed as well. We do want incentives for green pharmaceuticals. And of course, releases of API is a fundamental piece in defining a green pharmaceutical, but other environmental aspects, e.g. packaging issues and energy usage, are of interest as well. The meeting called for actions not only from MPA, industry and the pharmacy chains but specifically from TLV (The Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency). Fredrik Nilsson from TLV attended the meeting and contributed very contructively in the discussions. I am really looking forward to continued discussions with Fredrik and his colleagues at TLV on these matters. They play a key central role in the solution!