[Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The pharmaceutical industry is gradually going green. More pharma companies are embracing sustainability metrics and striving to reduce corporate emissions and their footprint.

More than 25% of major pharma and biopharma companies are committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Many are also committed to ensuring equal access to medicine for the 2 billion people worldwide that are currently underserved and rely on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Those initiatives are designed to improve human and planet health while helping achieve sustainable business practices.

Working toward a prosperous and equitable future while building healthy communities can directly support current and future business operations for pharma and biopharma organizations. These companies have concluded there does not need to be a choice between being environmentally friendly and growing long-term profits. Environmental sustainability can go hand-in-hand with operational excellence.

Many are embracing the green economy with digitalization. Specifically, right-the-first-time drug manufacturing is helping pharma and biopharma organizations be more operationally efficient. This practice can also help make progress toward the dual challenge of meeting the increasing demand for resources while achieving sustainable profitability.

Minimizing waste and managing carbon emissions

As pharma and biopharma companies make right-the-first time drug manufacturing part of their initiatives to improve operations and drug quality, waste minimization and carbon emissions management are addressed inherently.

Right-the-first-time manufacturing minimizes waste by ensuring procedures are consistently executed according to SOPs. The practice also helps ensure compliance with required compliance standards and that product quality certification is closer to the point of execution. This manufacturing initiative mitigates the risk of deviations and the post-production discovery of poor quality, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of compromised product and associated costs. In addition, by minimizing redundant production runs, right-the-first-time production also reduces emissions.

Pharmaceutical and other capital-intensive industries’ global efforts to reduce emissions and waste are helping to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases. Mitigating climate change also could safeguard the industry’s reliance on nature-derived drug compounds.

For instance, at least 40% of prescription drugs are based on naturally occurring molecules found in plants, and 60% of cancer drugs are natural or synthetic products inspired by nature. Only 15% of an estimated 300,000 plant species have been evaluated to determine their pharmacological potential. Not to mention, some of these species, such as the Peruvian cinchona tree used to produce the malaria drug quinine, are under threat due to climate change. If carbon emissions and pollution continue to degrade our planet, so too, will the opportunity to source critical resources for drug production.

Prioritizing digitalization

With unprecedented events brought on by the pandemic as the backdrop, pharma and biopharma companies are accelerating the adoption of digital tools. Many have realized that processes in place today, such as post-production quality testing and paper-based manufacturing processes, are unsustainable from both an operational and environmental standpoint.

The use of digitalization, cloud technologies and process automation, as outlined in the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) Pharma 4.0 framework, enables efficiencies, consistent quality and right-the-first time manufacturing while being environmentally conscious. For instance, process analytical technology (PAT) is based on implementing at-line and in-line advanced measurement systems for full visibility of the behavior of process parameters and quality attributes. This visibility makes PAT especially useful for monitoring process and product quality, so there are fewer instances of faulty production runs and lost batches. In addition, this capability helps avoid waste created by eliminating poor products after the fact.

Tran Pham

Tran Pham

Right-the-first-time manufacturing enhanced by digitalization is helping pharma and biopharma companies reinforce their commitment to sustainable business practices by treating the environment with respect and nurturing a world where people can enjoy healthier lives. As a result, the industry is embracing a more sustainable future that supports the pharmacological needs of a growing population without sacrificing profitability.

Tran is the product marketing manager, Aspen Technology. As part of the Pharmaceutical Business marketing group at AspenTech, she brings over 10 years of technical, sales and training, and regulatory experiences in product manufacturing, release and stability testing and method development/validation. In addition, she holds a BS in chemistry, a master’s in biotech business, and has a certification in teaching adult learners.