CleanMed Europe 2021 – Features OHBP & Scottish Research in “Tools for healthcare professionals to tackle pharmaceutical pollution”

Healthcare Without Harm’s annual online conference is back for 2021, running from 29 November – 3 December. CleanMed Europe is Europe’s leading conference on sustainable healthcare, with sessions taking place on: healthcare and climate change, circular economy in healthcare, sustainable procurement, addressing medicine and healthcare waste, planetary health and wellbeing, and environmental pollution from the healthcare sector. The OHBP is closely tied to HCWH’s SaferPharma strategic focus area.

Watch this short video from HCWH SaferPharma:

Today’s SaferPharma session, “Tools for healthcare professionals to tackle pharmaceutical pollution“, brought into sharp focus the environmental and public health issue posed by pharmaceutical pollution, and ways which the healthcare sector can reduce the environmental impact from medicines. This featured speakers: Terry Kemple (Royal College of General Practitioners), Helena Ramstrom (Healthcare Administration – Region Stockholm), and Julze Alejandre (Glasgow Caledonian University). Julze is a Hydro Nation PhD researcher working closely with the OHBP – and spoke on the Realistic Medicine strategy in Scotland and Scotland’s progress in addressing pharmaceutical pollution in the environment.

Key messages from the session included:

  • The current healthcare sector is not sustainable. And with increasing effects of climate change impacting human health, pharmaceutical prescribing (and it’s environmental effects) is expected to increase.
  • There is a need for healthcare practitioners to include patients in medicine and health-related choices. The Realistic Medicine strategy puts the patient at the centre of decision-making and calls for a supported, personalised approach to care.
  • More actions are needed to promote and embed alternatives to medicine prescribing in the healthcare sector. Social prescribing is a health and social care approach which connects patients to non-medical support in community-based situations. Mutual aid, physical activity, and nature-based social prescribing can be for positive health outcomes. Blue-green prescribing combines two environmentally friendly healthcare interventions through prescribing blue space activities and eco-directed prescribing of pharmaceuticals. For example, exposure to blue spaces can improve health, and is culturally important in a nation such as Scotland with plentiful blue spaces.
  • Changes to prescribing formularies can reduce the use and environmental impact of the most ecotoxicologically relevant drugs. Green formulary development utilises environmental criteria (e.g, hazards or risk) in drug selection or prescription. The Stockholm Wise List developed formulary changes based on medical suitability (effectiveness and safety), pharmaceutical suitability, cost-effectiveness, and environmental aspects (e.g., ecotoxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation, etc.).
  • For these tools to be effective, behavioural changes in established prescribing practices, and patient outlook on medicine usage and stewardship, are needed. Additionally, clear and accurate environmental classification of drugs need developed.

Current progress in Scotland to tackle environmental pollution from pharmaceuticals is shown in this slide from Julze’s presentation. The OHBP and partner agencies are highlighted as an organised networks driving some of this progress, and we are involved in or leading many of these outputs below, including ongoing research to establish the status of pharmaceutical pollution in Scotland’s water environment through the Chemical Investigation Programme Scotland and the CREW baseline assessment.

More information about CleanMed Europe 2021:

This online conference showcases cutting-edge practices and new initiatives to address the most pressing issues in the healthcare sector – and offers a unique opportunity for researchers, healthcare practitioners, prescribers, innovators, and private sector representatives to network and share knowledge on ways to drive change.

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