Pharmacy is uniquely placed to tackle climate change

There is a climate emergency, and our profession is linked to 25% of the NHS’s carbon emissions — medicines. That’s 5% of the total UK carbon footprint, yet medicines are the most common intervention in our healthcare system.

The RPS officially recognised the scale of this problem in 2021 and has committed to tackling it – a decision I’m proud to have been a part of. As a board member and Treasurer, I have overseen a number of organisational changes that mean we are leading by example, including a divestment from fossil fuels and improvements to our operational business that led to us topping our category in the recent Climate and Health Scorecard report.

This isn’t enough, and we know it. The production and use of medicines are direct contributors to the climate emergency, and as a profession we are uniquely placed to have an impact on both.

Pharmaceutical pollution, from drug development and production through to that found in human waste, is having a measurable impact on countless ecosystems. Any reduction can be beneficial, and sustainable production processes by manufacturers could go a long way to improving our chances in tackling the emergency. Simultaneously, inappropriate use and disposal of medicines is a contributor – one that we can all have a direct influence over. Through appropriate prescribing and de-prescribing, supply, patient education, and robust return and recycling schemes, each one of us can contribute.

The RPS is well-placed to engage with organisations both nationally and internationally to support and hold the pharmaceutical industry to account and ensure they place environmental sustainability at the heart of their agenda throughout their development and supply chains. We have members working in the sector who can bring their expertise to ensuring we are embracing new techniques and technologies to make the sector greener, but we should also be making full use of collaborations such as FIP and its connection to the United Nations.

We should be proactive in our efforts to further developing national policy and aim to lead internationally in promoting the sustainable use of medicines, empowering the profession to have a meaningful impact on a cause that literally affects the future of humanity.

Alisdair Jones

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2024, Vol 312, No 7985;312(7985)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.311303

    Please leave a comment 

    You may also be interested in