Reducing the environmental impact of medicines from procurement to disposal

22 November 2022

Medicines are crucial to save human lives and improve wellbeing. However, when prescribed, used, or disposed inappropriately, they can impact human health and severely impact wildlife and ecosystems. There are various ways in which pharmaceuticals impact the environment. Firstly, the medicines and medical equipment supply chain releases large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, wastewater from the production and usage of medicines can be detrimental to wildlife and expedite the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It is estimated that there are 33,000 human deaths linked to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the EU/EEA each year [1].  

Multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral engagement with the One Health approach across the medicine’s lifecycle is urgently needed to address this issue. So far, existing recommendations and strategies to reduce the environmental impact of medicines have primarily been focusing on the actions that can be taken by industries, community pharmacists, and practitioners. Yet, targeted recommendations for health managers are lacking.

Our White Paper is written from a health management perspective and focuses on the stages of the medicines’ lifecycle that can be influenced by health managers. These include: procurement, logistic planning and distribution, prescription, consumption and use, and disposal. The White Paper exhibits case studies and associated recommendations and best practices that health managers can put in place to help reduce the environmental impact of medicines in these five stages.


[1] Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2019). Antimicrobial Resistance – Tackling the Burden in the European Union.

The White Paper

The White Paper

Our White Paper presents recommendations that health managers can implement at the various stages of the medicine’s lifecycle:

  • Incentivise a standardised data collection at European level about healthcare emissions.
  • Establish an EU database of good practices to minimise the environmental impact of medicines.
  • Adopt a multistakeholder approach.
  • Leverage digital technology to monitor prescription, adherence, procurement and disposal.
  • Increase environmental health literacy and green skills of healthcare professionals, patients and citizens.
  • Centralise processes in procurement, supply chain, and logistics to favour the purchase of medicines with low environmental impact.

The White Paper also contains 13 case studies highlighting best practices from across the European region.    

Download the White Paper

This paper was supported by MSD.

This paper is based on independent research delivered by EHMA. MSD has had no influence or editorial control over the content of this paper, and the views and opinions of the authors are not necessarily those of MSD.


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