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Can branding and price of pharmaceuticals guide informed choices towards improved pollution control during manufacturing?

Journal article
Authors Johan Bengtsson-Palme
Lina-Maria Gunnarsson
D. G. Joakim Larsson
Published in Journal of Cleaner Production
Volume 171
Pages 137-146
ISSN 0959-6526
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Infectious Medicine
Centre for antibiotic resistance research, CARe
Pages 137-146
Language en
Keywords Antibiotic resistance, Environmental performance, Generic drugs, Outsourcing, Pharmaceutical production, Transparency
Subject categories Pharmacology and Toxicology, Environmental toxicology


Pharmaceutical manufacturing can lead to substantial discharges of active pharmaceutical ingredients into the environment, with local consequences to the environment and, in the case of antibiotics, potentially global implications in terms of increasing risks for resistance development. In this study, we used Swedish sales data for pharmaceuticals combined with data on the origin of the active ingredients to determine if price pressure and generic substitution are related to the estimated general environmental performance and the perceived corruption levels of the production countries. In line with the general perception, India was the largest producer of generics, while Europe and the USA dominated for branded products. We found that the price and environmental performance index of the production countries were linked, but that this relationship was largely explained by whether the product was original or generic. Although this relationship would allow buyers to select products that are more likely to originate from countries that, in general terms, have better pollution control, it lacks resolution. We conclude that to better allow consumers, hospitals and pharmacies to influence the environmental impact of their product choices, there is need for regulation as well as transparency in the production chain. To this end, emissions from manufacturing need to be measured, allowing for control and follow-up on industry commitments towards sustainable manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

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