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by Clare Morrison, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland
30 May 2022
Associate Feature: Making medicines more environmentally sustainable

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Associate Feature: Making medicines more environmentally sustainable

Climate change is the most significant health threat we face: impacting our air, drinking water, food and shelter. 

But why is the environment of such interest to pharmacy? Put simply, it’s because medicines are the most common intervention in healthcare: medicines account for 25% of NHS carbon emissions, not to mention their wider ecological impact. That’s why the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), pharmacists’ professional body, is committed to tackling the climate emergency. 
However, pharmacy cannot act alone. So on 31 March, RPS Scotland co-hosted a round table with the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. Our aim was to bring all Royal Colleges and Professional Bodies of health professionals who have a role in prescribing to work together to reduce the impact of medicines on the environment. 

No-one in the virtual room that day can have had any doubt about the desire to act. The discussion was wide-ranging, from what is needed to make prescribing more sustainable, to reducing medicines waste and the path to net zero. Key enablers to achieving change discussed included taking a Realistic Medicine approach to prescribing, offering patients regular medication reviews, the need for better data about the environmental impact of medicines, and improving information for both prescribers and patients.

Crucially, it was agreed to come together to produce a joint statement on how to reduce the environmental impact of prescribing. It will cover the actions we will take and the things we need others to support with. Those “others” include policy makers, the pharmaceutical industry and NHS Scotland. The joint statement is currently being finalised and we plan to engage widely on its content. We hope everyone reading this column will consider how they can support the actions in the joint statement. 

In the meantime, our RPS policy has more information about sustainable prescribing at:

This article is sponsored by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. 

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