Sustainability in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

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When we talk about greener energy, the Pharmaceutical industry has to make crucial changes; many large pharma companies have determined carbon reduction goals, moving away from fossil fuels and greener, renewable energy resources.

Sustainability in the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
Photo by Glsun Mall on Unsplash

As part of the industry that generates more greenhouse gases than the automotive sector, drug companies must make a collaborative attempt to reduce the carbon footprint and lead times related to supplying medicines to patients.

Pharmaceutical Supply Chain (SC) has a carbon footprint in every phase. Like other industries, it has the responsibility to find better ways to relieve this damage done to the environment, considered the most urgent Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issue to address. The Pharma Industry needs to redesign its entire value chain after fundamentally bringing down carbon emissions.

Cutting the carbon footprint of Pharma SC

Drugmakers have the opportunity to go into renewable energy throughout their value chain. Top ten global pharma companies promote this initiative and encourage their suppliers to decarbonise their processes with renewables.

The pharmaceutical SC has a carbon footprint from the origin where the raw materials for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) are sourced to the patient’s final destination. Manufacturing APIs for drugs rely mainly on petroleum, a fossil fuel.

Many sustainable biotech laboratories are dedicated to developing brand-new therapeutic medicine with minimal impact on the environment. Their long-term vision is to replace fossil fuel manufactured with procedures based on synthetic biology and enhance the chemical processes witnessed in nature.

Pharma labs took significant steps to change traditional compounds used to manufacture drugs from natural resources using edge technology. They adopted a continuous drug manufacturing process that brings several split-up production phases into a single uninterrupted production line.

Enhancing sustainably

French healthcare company Sanofi opened a continuous manufacturing plant that generates 80% fewer carbon emissions than the initial generation facility. They focus on small-molecule manufacturing standards and make high investments in this area.

The number of authorised products made with continuous manufacturing has increased over the last few years. Consequently, this practice becomes more striking—the successfully implemented sustainable, fermentation-based manufacturing technology on both a small and large-level scale.

There are accessible infrastructures to adopt sustainable fermentation widely. Still, it will take much effort to grow towards more complex compounds or other drug molecules currently on the market. The entire industry will need to re-engineer its resources to better prepare for that transition.

How to get these objectives

USA and European targets are to get its electricity solely from renewable sources and to achieve their goals of carbon neutrality across its operations and net zero emissions across its value chain by 2030 by implementing strategies to reduce direct emissions by 46% and obtain 100% of its electric power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biomass.

To reach there, they have developed a detailed framework and robust plan to strengthen efficient group effort with suppliers towards delivering the 2030 carbon neutrality targets.

Cold Chain shipping

The steps leaders took to supply medicines considerably impacted the environment due to Cold Chain shipping of vaccines or insulin-requiring controlled temperatures that do not jeopardise their safety and efficiency. They must maintain the correct temperature from manufacturing until it is delivered to the patient.

Refrigerated means of transportation requires extra energy to operate the cooling systems, known as Transport Refrigeration Units (TRU), that preserves products at a controlled temperature. According to low emission transport and energy research, the average diesel lorry TRU produces around eight tones of tailpipe CO2 a year.

To diminish the carbon emissions caused by Cold Chain shipping is financing greener fuels and energy sources for motor vehicles. Hydrotreated vegetable oil is a renewable bio-based fuel that transportation can use in diesel engines and lessen greenhouse gas emissions by about 90% compared with regular diesel. Gas-fueled vehicles saved over 1,400 tons of CO2 emissions compared to diesel over two years.

Companies should invest in producing medicines nearer to where they will be used, also called ‘Localised Manufacturing,’ a way to diminish the carbon footprint related to the pharma distribution.

It would help reduce the complexity of the SC and consider the number of transferrals that must occur by reshoring certain parts of the manufacturing process to optimise the time a product is maintained within a shipped storage environment amongst the different transportation solutions.

Further comments: you lessen the Pharma SC environmental impact caused by cold transport and packaging when adopting the ‘Passive Packaging’approach; it consists of less-than-eco-friendly single-use plastics, dry ice, and cardboard to keep medicines at a stable temperature.

Do you have the forward-thinking aim at becoming a sustainable Pharmaceutical Supply Chain?

Dave Food

M: +44 7775 861863


Photo by Glsun Mall on Unsplash

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