New Policy Recommendations launched for Eco-directed and Sustainable Prescribing of Pharmaceuticals at UK Parliament

In response to the escalating concern over pharmaceutical pollution’s impact on human and environmental health, a significant step has been taken in the United Kingdom to address this issue. Policy recommendations aimed at reducing pharmaceutical pollution have been officially unveiled at the UK Parliament by Baroness Bennett, a Green Party Peer at the House of Lords, following the valuable input of Prof. Sharon Pfleger, co-founder of the One Health Breakthrough Partnership.

Pharmaceutical pollution poses a growing threat due to the improper disposal of medications and inadequate wastewater treatment. Active pharmaceutical ingredients and their by-products find their way into water bodies and ecosystems, negatively affecting wildlife and contributing to antimicrobial resistance. This issue necessitates urgent attention to safeguard the environment and public health.

The recently launched policy document proposes an innovative approach known as ‘eco-directed and sustainable’ pharmaceutical prescribing. This approach emphasises responsible prescribing practices that consider the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals. By prioritising non-pharmacologic interventions and optimising medicine use, this approach aims to reduce pharmaceutical pollution at its source.

UK Parliament Launch Event for the Policy Brief on Eco-directed and Sustainable Prescribing of Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, including Prof. Sharon Plfeger (7th from left) and Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (8th from left)

The policy brief, titled Eco-directed and Sustainable Pharmaceutical Prescribing in the United Kingdom, encompasses 15 key policy recommendations within the following 4 areas:

  • Increase investment in health promotion and non-pharmacologic interventions
  • Improve stakeholders’ awareness and create wider engagement to promote greener and more sustainable healthcare
  • Integrate environmental and sustainability criteria in healthcare decision making for pharmaceuticals
  • Invest in extended environmental risk assessment of human pharmaceuticals
  • Some of the crucial proposals include:

Researchers have concluded that humans have exceeded our planet’s capacity to absorb ‘novel entities’ – among which plastics, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals are a major part. A threat from human activities that sits alongside the climate emergency, collapse in biodiversity, water stress, and biogeochemical flows as major dangers in the Anthropocene.
The environmental impact of pharmaceuticals has been perhaps least noted of those in policy attention and action. This policy document aims to start to address the gap in the UK, recommending policy measures that would allow the British Government to genuinely use the ‘world-leading label’ and provide ways forward to reducing the global burden of pharmaceuticals in the environment.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle

The One Health Breakthrough Partnership, an initiative committed to driving positive change regarding pharmaceutical pollution, played a significant role in shaping these policy recommendations. The involvement of co-founder Prof. Sharon Pfleger highlights the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in tackling complex issues like pharmaceutical pollution.

The launch of policy recommendations at the UK Parliament marks a notable step forward in addressing pharmaceutical pollution. By advocating for eco-directed and sustainable prescribing practices and promoting collaboration among stakeholders, the United Kingdom aims to mitigate the adverse effects of pharmaceutical pollution on the environment and public health. Embracing these recommendations is vital for fostering a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable future for all.  

To read more about the the policy work, see the article on the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy website.

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