Environmental sustainability within pharmacy is the subject of a new policy statement published by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) as it calls for action on climate change.
The statement emphasises that as pharmacy practice and medicines cause greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, they both contribute to climate change and ecological damage and thus threaten human health.
‘Given the role of pharmacy professionals in supporting health, these issues present the profession with ongoing challenges and an imperative to address environmental sustainability,’ it states.
Expanding on its 2016 Green Pharmacy Practice statement on pharmaceutical pollution, the new policy highlights the need for mitigation and adaption measures across all pharmacy sectors and makes a number of recommendations for each sector to safeguard population health.
Dr Shellyza Moledina Sajwani, co-chair of FIP’s policy committee that developed the statement, said: ‘Pharmacy professionals have an ethical responsibility to mitigate climate and pollution risks to health throughout the pharmaceutical supply chain and across the spectrum of medication management. For example, optimised medicines management can mitigate the environmental footprint of healthcare within clinically appropriate deprescribing.
‘However, the profession must now also address climate adaptation to allow for the sustainability of pharmacy services in rapidly changing environments.’
Climate change and hospital pharmacy
For hospital pharmacy, FIP’s recommendations to build climate resilience include measures concerning the safe and effective stocking, storage, prescribing and disposal of drugs and medical devices.
For example, promoting lower carbon inhaler prescribing, reducing desflurane use to <5% of total hospital use or eliminating it altogether, limiting the use of single-use medical devices, and considering the use of reusable sharps bins and cytotoxic waste bins in aseptic units.
Reviewing the transfer process of medicines from admission onwards to reduce unnecessary waste, closely managing drug inventories with ward-based clinicians and revising pharmacy standard operating procedures to prevent overstocking and wastage from drugs expiring are also advised.
In addition, adaption measures relating to worsening natural disasters and extreme weather events are recommended, including regularly updating hospital pharmacy disaster plans for emergencies and providing regular training or drills, and ensuring inventory management can cope with unexpected medicine shortage challenges.
When it comes to heatwaves in particular, the adaption measures include extended medication monitoring of at-risk patients on wards and considering appropriate stock management to reduce accelerated medicines degradation.
Similar recommendations to tackle climate change are outlined for pharmacy associations, community, regulation, industry, procurement, academia, public and population health, military and emergency services, which include new and strengthened environmental mitigation and adaptation policies in regional, national and local
pharmacy settings, in line with established United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr Sajwani added: ‘This expanded policy is particularly timely as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change AR6 Synthesis Report 2023 has outlined the urgency and necessity of immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions this decade to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This statement is intended to bring forth the urgent action needed in the pharmacy sector.’