Drugmakers Aim to Curb Release of Antibiotic Waste Into the Environment
A coalition of drugmakers is introducing new standards aimed at curbing the release of antibiotic waste into the environment amid growing concerns over drug resistance that’s been linked to more than a million annual deaths globally.
The guidelines will help ensure antibiotics are made responsibly, minimizing environmental risks, the AMR Industry Alliance said Tuesday in a statement. The group also plans to launch a certification program next spring that will allow manufacturers to show requirements have been met through independent evaluation, initially by UK-based BSI Standards Limited.
Overuse and overexposure to antibiotics helps breed resistant bacterial strains that can grow in spite of the presence of drugs. A lack of international regulations, and a reliance on self-reporting by companies, blunts efforts to ensure unused antimicrobials are safely discharged into the environment, according to the Access to Medicine Foundation, a nonprofit in Amsterdam that tracks companies’ efforts on antibiotic resistance.
While many people want to see new controls in place, the industry alliance’s measures are the “only solution” that’s come forward, said Steve Brooks, who leads its manufacturing work.
“We’re getting on with self-regulation and we’re getting on with driving the change that is needed,” he said in an interview. “Everything that we’re doing is quite likely to be closely aligned with any type of control that might eventually come to pass.”
Pharmaceutical manufacturing waste is a known factor in the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. Infections impervious to existing treatments killed more than 1.2 million people in 2019, according to a global analysis published earlier this year in The Lancet medical journal. Health officials warn the annual death toll could explode to as many as 10 million by 2050 without urgent action.
Although pharma companies are increasingly taking action by setting and enforcing limits on wastewater released from manufacturing, a huge gap remains in applying those standards to suppliers, the Access to Medicine Foundation found in a report. The new standards and independent certification are aimed at influencing the wider supply chain, Brooks said.
“We think this will bring greater transparency to what companies are doing,” he said.