Striking a Balance: Sustainability and Pharmaceutical Compliance
July 2, 2024

Over the years, international organizations and the pharmaceutical industry have observed the detrimental effects it has on the environment. During all stages of their life cycle, medical products interact with the environment, but the production stage is where most effects take place.

Pharmaceutical products are released in the environment through intricate web of pathways which makes this issue multifaceted; pinpointing one direct or singular source is not possible. There three ways in which products are released into the environment

  • Direct industrial release
  • Indirect release via human and animal excretion
  • Inappropriate disposal of unused medicine.

Concerns like waste disposal, antibiotic resistance and packaging and CO2 emissions are getting more attention.

Thankfully, with international attention, there is increasing pressure for better regulations and guidelines for a greener tomorrow. Many international organizations and regulatory bodies are seeking and providing guidelines for companies and people to lessen their environment impact while creating quality drugs and medications. There is a conscious shift to sustainable practices and production of chemical drugs and medicines.


The Environmental Protection Agency provides guidelines for organizations to set targets and reduce their GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and report them. They also provide roadmaps for organizations to upgrade their waste management and reduce costs to support sustainability.


The International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering recommends specific accounting standards for various upstream scope 3 categories. These emphasizes on a holistic approach including supplier engagement and internal business choices


The World Health Organization plays a vital role in shaping guidelines for managing air emissions by the pharmaceutical industry. Companies must ensure a controlled environment and effective dust, vapour and fume control in order to adhere to the WHO standards.


The European Medical Agency has laid down stringent quality standards for usage of water in pharmaceutical manufacturing process. These standards range from different grades of water, purified water

To make a difference which can be quantified, here are some Trends and Strategies that can help overcome and achieve the guidelines:

  • Efficient use of Energy: Upgrade facilities and equipment to be more energy efficient. This can involve using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, optimizing production processes to reduce energy consumption, and implementing smart building technologies.
  • Water Conservation: Since water plays a critical role in drug manufacturing, companies are now focusing on wastewater treatment plants equipped with advanced technologies. Novartis's wastewater treatment plant in Romania, utilizing carbon-filter technology, is a testament to the industry's focus on water stewardship.
  • Waste Management: Excess packaging, along with disposal of unused drugs and chemicals are another front where companies can focus.
  • Investing in R&D: For long-term results, companies should research and find sustainable options for current methods. Knowing that change takes time, investing in the right use of time and resources is crucial. Explore innovative solutions for waste reduction, solvent recycling, and energy-efficient manufacturing.
  • Green Chemistry: It is concerned with designed and optimized use of chemical products and processes and reduce or eliminate the use of toxic substances.

In conclusion, the pharmaceutical companies are at crossroads trying to navigate the sustainable landscape while adhering to current compliance and regulatory rules. With these strategies and others, the shift to a more and green conscious pharmaceutical process is possible and well within reach.