Posted by: Brendan Fraser9 MAY 2012
Recently, I’ve been thinking (and am worried) about the economy. Itis clear that the whole economy is related to the price of oil, hence the risein the cost of living. With these increasing costs, it is no wonder why thereis panic in the pharmaceutical industry (as well as everywhere else!). I wasinterested to see what measures are going on in the pharmaceutical industry tohelp combat these additional costs and how sustainability was beingincorporated into business ideas.
Theredoes not appear to be a true definition of sustainability (from browsing). Itcan be described as the ‘capacity to endure’. I suppose it is difficult tounderstand and estimate sustainability of anything without understandingundermining factors and parameters. These factors can be broken down into threesections including: environmental, economical and social. Environmental factorsinclude natural resource use, environmental management and pollutionprevention. Economical factors include profit, cost savings, economic growthand research and development. Social factors include the standard of living,education, community and equal opportunities. A balance of all three sectionswould help maintain a level of sustainability within a business or a communityfor that matter.
Greenchemistry is a clear subject area where sustainability is an outcome. Ingeneral it incorporates technologies that are energy efficient, reduce waste,avoid toxic chemicals, and utilise renewable raw materials. Green chemistry mayalso incorporate the use of a catalyst which can be re-useable. Applying thesetypes of technologies to current active pharmaceutical ingredient synthesis isone of the ways in which the industry is trying to become sustainable. Dunn etal. (2004) discusses how green chemistry has helped reduce the synthesis ofsildenafil citrate (Viagra™) from over 25Kg of waste to 6Kg. It’s a brilliant exampleof reducing organic solvents especially from producing over 1300L/kg of organicwaste in 1990.
Another way the industry istrying to be sustainable is the switch from batch processing to continuous. Iremember studying the pros and cons of this switch during my computing a-level(not similar from a science point of view but business it is). Generally,although the processes will now require less space and reduce time wastedduring storage, cleaning etc. it may produce more delays due to problems duringprocessing. For example, if the batch fails, where was the problem? Duringmixing or tableting etc? It will also require re-training, more expensiveequipment, closer maintenance as machines will be running more often etc. Processanalytical technology is used that enables process analytic chemistry tools toanalyse the formulations critical process parameters.
Dunn, PJ. Galvin, S. Hettenbach, K. (2004). The development of an environmentally benign synthesis of sildenafil citrate (Viagra™) and its assessment by Green Chemistry metrics. Green Chemistry. 6, p43-48.