The kick-off of the project "Make the Baltic Sea Region a Lead in Sustainable Development for Pharmaceuticals" was held at Åkeshof's Castle in Stockholm, Sweden, today. The project is a so called flagship project within the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and Priority area 3 "Reduce the use and impact of hazardous substances". We were roughly 30 participants, representing the EU Commission, several agencies from the Baltic Sea Countries, and a number of different organizations such as LIF (the Research Based Pharmaceutical Industry in Sweden from which I and Gisela Holm were participating) and Efpia (the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations).
Christina Åkerman, Director General of Swedish MPA, welcomed us all to the meeting. The flagship project will run for 3 years and today's meeting was intended as a kick-off, a chance to start building the network, and to set an agenda for the coming years.
Charlotte Unger (Environmental Manager at MPA) gave us some additional background to the project and then kicked-off the meeting by dividing us into three groups. The three groups worked for a few hours, brainstorming about what topics that should be addressed in the project, and potential deliverables. It was very interesting to follow the discussions in the groups. The discussions were intense and energetic, and perspectives from very different angles were given. Interesting to see how a very diverse group of people (pharmaceutical specialists, environmental specialists, water specialists, policy makers, physicians, etc.) manages to present synergies to one another's perspectives.
After lunch the full group came together again and presentations were given from the break-out session. It was clear from all groups that an inventory is needed ("the state of the discussion on pharmaceuticals and the environment in the different Baltic Sea countries", "scale of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the different countries", "pharmaceutical usage patterns in the countries", etc.). All groups also suggested that management of un-used medicines in the different countries should be described, and best practices identified. There was also discussions on the scale of the issues as such of pharmaceuticals in the environment (e.g. "yes, we know the drugs are found in the environment, but do they pose a risk?"). It was very clear that the discussion on the topic are still very different in the different countries. Several other issues were also raised, e.g. green economic incentives, monitoring outside manufacturing facilities and POTWs (publicly owned waste water treatment works), and of course Swedish MPA's suggestion on amending GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) with environmental requirements.
I am really looking forward to future meetings with this group. It will surely be interesting to follow the project. You just have to love the ambitious title of the project: Make the Baltic Sea Region a Lead in Sustainable Development for Pharmaceuticals. This will be an interesting journey!