Expert Opinion Confronting Pollution Issues of the Pharma Industry

Editor: Ahlam Rais

Global Data offers an insight into two of the core problems—waste and carbon—which the pharma industry faces today along with its possible solutions. Allie Nawrat, a senior medical reporter with Global Data shares her viewpoint on this.

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Virtualised clinical trials could be developed to make trials both more sustainable and more financially viable.
Virtualised clinical trials could be developed to make trials both more sustainable and more financially viable.
(Source: Deposit Photos)

UK – As one of the biggest polluters, and simultaneously the industry tasked with trying to tackle the global health outcomes of environmental degradation, pharma has a responsibility to be more eco-friendly.

Allie Nawrat, Senior Medical Reporter at Global Data looks at two of the problems the industry faces, and possible solutions.


Nawrat says: “Pharma manufacturing creates a lot of by-products that leach into the environment, which contributes to the evolution of drug-resistant microorganisms, and has significant global impact for human health.

“The method by which therapeutic products are developed through multiple prototype iterations also creates a huge amount of waste.

“3D visualisation and printing could eliminate the need for multiple prototype designs. Dassault Systèmes life sciences director Richard Coxon suggests that they could, in the future, use 3D technology to build models in the virtual world of a company’s supply chain. Instead of having to produce several versions of a therapeutics’ production process, Coxon notes: ‘we can model opportunities to improve efficiencies in the factory itself, as well as the final product.’

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“Pharma waste does not only come from the manufacturing process, but also from the patients’ disposal of unused medicine. They may get rid of drugs for a range of reasons, such as they were ineffective for that patient, they caused adverse events or they simply were over-prescribed or some pills expired.

“However, personalised medicines create a situation where patients can be treated once with an effective treatment that is tailored specifically for them.

“Medidata global compliance and strategy principal Fiona Maini explains, therefore, that personalised medicine could mitigate challenges around pharmaceutical waste, particularly because it drives more adherence.”


Nawrat says: “Carbon emissions related to clinical trials arise from energy usage at the study site and the travel required to attend the trial, which often involves cars and airplanes. This is particularly concerning given that nine in ten clinical studies fail, so a lot of those emissions, as well as the drugs themselves, ended up having almost no purpose.

“Virtualised clinical trials could be developed to make trials both more sustainable and more financially viable.

“Medidata is leading the way with its Adaptable aspirin trial. This study aimed to enroll 15,000 patients over three years; the participants engaged and input information at each stage of the trial through internet-connected devices. The entire trial was virtual with no study sites set up. Medidata estimated that they saved patients and pharma companies both time and money, which also benefitted the environment; for instance, 1,009,200 dollars was saved in driving costs in the aspirin trial.”

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