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More greenhouse gas than the auto sector: CSHP releases plan for pharmacy to fight climate crisis

8/14/2023

The Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists has released draft recommendations around how pharmacy can help fight the climate crisis.

“We will call for the pharmaceutical industry, governments across Canada and other stakeholders to work with us to make the changes that are required to tackle the climate emergency,” the draft reads.

The recommendations, which were made in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Pharmacy for the Environment, explained that climate change is the most significant threat to human health in the 21st century and is expected to be responsible for 250,000 deaths annually between 2030 and 2050. Yet healthcare generates large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions—more than 33 million tons annually in Canada—and more than 200,000 tonnes of pollutant emissions. Through this, the Canadian healthcare sector is responsible for 23,000 disability-adjusted life years lost annually.

Pharmacy is an often under-appreciated cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, emissions from the pharmaceutical industry surpass those of the automotive industry. 

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All the steps of a medication’s life cycle affect the environment, with three parts having the most significant effect: the active pharmaceutical ingredients, the manufacturing and distribution of drugs and pharmaceutical waste. 

The draft recommendations offer suggestions to minimize pharmacy’s impact. 

Ensuring medications are used optimally could save more than 202 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per 100,000 population. 

It also proposes including education about environmental sustainability at all conferences, adding it to pharmacy school curriculums, and developing a planetary health education series.

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The CSHP also said it wanted to advocate for existing organizations and encourage them to include sustainability in their metrics. Groups such as Choosing Wisely Canada, CADTH and UpToDate could all include sustainability information in their information. In addition, NAPRA could review and update beyond-use dating standards to minimize medication wastage. 

The draft recommendations also include advocating for provinces and the federal government to further fund sustainable initiatives and positions for pharmacists in public healthcare settings around mitigating and adapting to climate change. Some provinces now include climate change in their health plans, including B.C.’s environmental sustainability policy, Ontario’s climate change and health toolkit, and Alberta’s plan of action. The Federal government has also started some climate-related healthcare initiatives. 

The Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists is looking for input from pharmacists on these recommendations until Aug. 25.  

Read: Climate Changed: Canada's health system isn't ready for new reality, say doctors

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