Pharmacists tackle environmental impacts of healthcare

In a paper published in the Journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy a team of pharmacists and pharmacy students from Monash University and the United States have collaborated to highlight the role of pharmacists in reducing healthcare-associated waste, greenhouse emissions and other environmental impacts.

The pharmacists acknowledge that environmental change is a human health issue, with the impacts of climate change often felt unevenly, perpetuating existing health inequities, both between and within countries.

“We need to look beyond the immediate threat of the [Covid-19] pandemic to mitigate the emerging health problems related to global environmental change,” says pharmacist and Teaching Associate at Monash University’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Catherine Forrester.

“Pharmaceuticals account for a significant portion of healthcare system contributions to greenhouse gas and waste production, and can end up in waterways.

“Pharmacists are well-positioned to reduce these impacts through the critical roles they already play in ensuring the quality use of medicines and avoiding ineffective or unnecessary treatments. But we also need to look at what we can do beyond this.,” she says.

Recognising that gaps in knowledge exist about the environment impacts of medicines, the paper focuses on opportunities for educating pharmacists and pharmacy staff about sustainable healthcare and the links between environment and health.

“Information on specific medicines’ ecological footprints is increasingly available – pharmacists can incorporate sustainability considerations into their procurement and prescribing recommendations,” continues Ms Forrester, adding that pharmacists also have a role in providing education to the public about “environmentally responsible disposal of medicines”.

“We wrote this paper to continue a conversation that lots of others have already started, and to highlight that this is a complex problem that can only be solved through collaboration.

“Educators and practicing pharmacists need to learn from and work with other health professions, consumers and other disciplines to transform healthcare towards environmentally sustainable models,” she says.

To read the paper, visit: accpjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jac5.1412

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