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Pharmacists and scientists can take the lead in reducing the environmental impact of medicines

The entire medicines use process must be changed so as to minimise the environmental effects of pharmaceuticals, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) says. The statement is made in a reference document published today by FIP as United Nations leaders meet to talk about climate change.

“Green pharmacy practice: Taking responsibility for the environmental impact of medicines” describes the different ways in which pharmaceuticals find their way into our water supplies, soil and atmosphere, and presents current findings on their levels in the environment. It also describes some of the negative effects that pharmaceuticals in the environment can have on living organisms and the actions that pharmacists have been taking to reduce their impact. “Through this reference document FIP is supporting full engagement of the pharmacy profession in reducing the environmental impact of medicines. Pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists can provide meaningful leadership in this area where leadership is desperately needed. This is a great opportunity for the profession,” the authors say.

Responsibility for the management of medicines includes minimising the environmental impact that they can have during research and development through to disposal. For example, there are ways of designing environmentally benign products and processes. Furthermore, ensuring rational use is an important way of minimising waste, the authors explain.

“This document is intended to increase awareness in our profession of what can be done at ground level and higher to protect our environment, and through that, the health of our communities. It could also be used to remind policymakers to consider the valuable role pharmacists can play in this issue,” said Eeva Teräsalmi, co-chair of the FIP Working Group on Pharmaceuticals and the Environment.

“Green pharmacy practice is better pharmacy practice,” Ms Teräsalmi added. The reference document provides a foundation for further work by FIP to produce a set of recommendations on green pharmacy.