Better supply chains can better tackle threats to public health

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of maintaining a robust global pharmaceutical supply chain. But the fight against the novel coronavirus is just one of the reasons we need a more efficient and sustainable system to manufacture and distribute the drugs the world needs. A key element in maintaining healthy supply chains is the release of pharmaceuticals into the environment (PiE) and the interrelated potential for the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Most pharmaceuticals enter the environment when patients use and dispose of the drugs they take. But the drug manufacturing process can also release emissions into the environment, primarily through releases that elevate concentrations of pharmaceuticals downstream from production facilities.

For example, manufacturing facilities that do not meet the best standards can contribute to excessive concentrations of pharmaceuticals in surface waters. This can impact the aquatic organisms that live in these waters, as well as the humans and wildlife that depend on these water supplies.

Improper containment of pharmaceutical antimicrobial agents can also increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance in environmental bacteria, creating superbugs that are beyond our ability to process them. While the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in the chain of care is the main driver of the development of antimicrobial resistance, high concentrations of antibiotics downstream from poorly managed manufacturing facilities can also contribute to this growing threat to the environment. public health.

Over the past two decades, the drug manufacturing supply chain has become increasingly global, shifting its focus from the United States and Europe to other hot spots around the world. This process has highlighted the need for rigorous manufacturing practices in countries with less stringent legislation, as some organizations in the massive global supply chain lack the expertise and resources to fully contribute to this process. effort.

Many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are actively working to tackle PiE and AMR issues head-on, working with their local suppliers and contractors to enforce the highest manufacturing standards globally. Manufacturers live up to their responsibilities by publicly committing to reduce emissions, adhering to strict global standards, and calling for greater accountability and enforcement action from governments.

An example of this continued collaboration is the work done by members of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI), 43 of the industry’s largest pharmaceutical companies, with drug manufacturers and suppliers to support the implementation of initiatives to limit the growth and spread of PiE and AMR and improve performance against global benchmarks.

These collaborations have benefited local businesses as they have seen reductions in operating costs, better regulatory compliance and improvements to their manufacturing processes. Many partners also believe that making strong environmental commitments and implementing measures to meet them improves their reputation with many stakeholder groups, which can lead to new business opportunities.

Going forward, to achieve meaningful progress, we must focus our collective efforts on three interrelated dimensions: first, we must continue to promote responsible practices that continually improve social, health, safety and environmental sustainability across the world. pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain, including mitigating the effects of antimicrobial resistance.

Second, we need to strengthen education and training efforts, building knowledge and expertise, and enabling companies to better understand how to calculate the impact of their manufacturing on surface waters and minimize drug releases. in the environment. This is essential to reduce local PiE “hot spots” and restore surface water so that there is no negative impact on the ecosystem.

Finally, more dialogue is needed to increase global awareness of this issue, ensure that stakeholders understand and are aligned with the appropriate environmental and public health goals, which is why we recently launched a position document describing what the private sector can do to tackle PiE and antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the next big threats the world faces after COVID-19. To effectively tackle the looming threat, we must prioritize collaboration to strengthen and more responsibly manage global supply chains.

Manjit Singh is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative (PSCI).

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