University of Twente Student Theses


Assessing and quantifying the pharmaceutical supply chain and its environmental impacts

Tuitert, G.B. (2021) Assessing and quantifying the pharmaceutical supply chain and its environmental impacts.

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Abstract:Pharmaceuticals in the environment is a topic that gets increasingly more attention. Impacts are not only local, but also on a global level through e.g. the promotion of antimicrobial resistance. In this context, urban wastewater is often seen as one of the most important pathways for pharmaceuticals to enter the environment. Nevertheless, it has been shown that manufacturing effluents can contain considerable amounts of pharmaceutical residues. Impacts of these kinds of local pollution can be severe, but the full extent of the problem is unknown. In this research, the production-related environmental impact of European pharmaceutical consumption is assessed. This is done for the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) ciprofloxacin and metoprolol. In the first stage, public access to the pharmaceutical supply chain is assessed by contacting relevant organisations and authorities. The second stage is comprised of estimating supply chains through the analysis of trade data. Lastly, the environmental impact of pharmaceutical manufacturing is examined for two substantiated example pharmaceuticals (ciprofloxacin and metoprolol) in a specific manufacturing hotspot in Patancheru, India. A grey water footprint (GWF), which describes the amount of water needed to assimilate pollutants, is consequently calculated for European consumption. Results demonstrate that the pharmaceutical supply chain is nontransparent to the public and researchers, even when confidentiality regarding the source is assured. Data on the supply chain is deemed confidential and pharmaceutical organisations and regulatory agencies are not willing or allowed to share information. An analysis of the supply chain using trade data shows that Germany is a considerable exporter of finished pharmaceutical products (FPPs) related to ciprofloxacin and metoprolol (a share of almost 15%). China is a substantial exporter of the studied APIs, with a share of around 30%. Quantification of production-related environmental pollution indicates that the average European consumer is responsible for a GWF of 18.8m3/year for ciprofloxacin and 0.0055 m3/year for metoprolol. This is relatively minor when compared to the total Dutch and German GWF of the respective pharmaceuticals (a share of 0-3%). Yet, local environmental impacts are potentially substantial since loads are concentrated at production locations. Consequently, indirect impacts are on a global level, with the promotion of antimicrobial resistance as the most notable example. This study highlights the complexity and sensitive nature of the pharmaceutical supply chain. In addition, it quantifies environmental pollution caused by this industry. The need for concrete measures is highlighted, which include an increase in transparency of the supply chain, the incorporation of environmental criteria in the regulatory framework and the stimulation of self-regulation.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Programme:Civil Engineering and Management MSc (60026)
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