I read in yesterday's Pharma Online newsletter that Stockholm County Council (SLL, Stockholms Läns Landsting), with their new Environmental Program 2012-2016, has sent a "challenge" to the Swedish government, other county councils and municipalities around Sweden.
Gustav Andersson, with a political responsability for environmental matters in Stockholm County Council, says in a press release that (nota bene: it is my own translation here):
"We will work faster, at a high speed, in several environmental areas with our tough objectives. Moreover, we challenge others!"
Pharmaceuticals is among the areas for environmental objectives. SLL says that they will continue their work to reduce the environmental impact from the usage of pharmaceuticals. A tool for this work is of course SLL's own pamphlet of environmentally classified active pharmaceutical ingriedients, which is based on data from LIF's classification scheme avalable through Fass.se. That makes good sense of course. But what frightens me is when they say that (once again my translation and words, not their)
"we will phase out all environmentally hazardous pharmaceuticals and chemicals".
There are several life saving pharmaceuticals, which according to the classification scheme may very well be rated "environmentally hazardous". To phase them out, e.g. products for chemotherapy, should not in my opinion be an objective for a county council. A wise use of the products, with safety precautions of course implemented, is to me a clear responsibility for a county council. Patients that need the therapy should of course have access to the treatment. I do not think actually that anyone in the County Council would argue here. It rather shows the problems of setting, and communicating, environmental objectives. Even if the use of "hazardous substances" has increased (which may be warranted due to an increase in patients with certain forms of cancer for instance) the County Council may have done a magnificent work within the environmental program.
The "right use" of pharmaceuticals - from the unique patient's perspective and from a more holistic perspective on public health and environment - is not always a very simple discussion to take...