Greener pharmacy

The Helsinki Challenge competition is giving rise to a generation imbued with sustainable development in pharmacy.

The launch of the Helsinki Challenge kick-started idea generators at the Faculty of Pharmacy. The Faculty had long considered ways to integrate environmental issues into pharmacy education, and the Helsinki Challenge offered an excellent opportunity for this.

“We want to educate a generation of pharmacy professionals who take environmental aspects into account in everything they do,” says Tiina Sikanen, leader of Generation Green, one of the Helsinki Challenge semifinalist teams. “For many students, environmental issues are everyday elements in other contexts. Now they must be seamlessly integrated into pharmacy teaching.”

Fewer drugs down the toilet

Pharmacy professionals participate in nearly every stage of operations in the pharmaceuticals industry. They develop and produce drugs, serve as authorities and advise medicine users in pharmacies.

Drug selection would be guided not only by price and effect, but also by the environmental load of the preparation.

Pharmaceutical companies at the beginning of the chain aim to develop new drugs that impact the environment as little possible – whether individually or together with other drugs – after passing through the human body.   

Prescribing drugs also involves certain choices. In addition to the price and effect, attention should focus on the environmental load from drug manufacturing.

Smaller and smaller concentrations are detected

One of the concerns is that the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals development and use is not always clear.

“As analytical techniques improve, drug residues can be detected in places that were previously out of reach due to low drug concentrations,” Sikanen explains.

The same principle, sustainable development, could serve to reform education in other fields as well.

In her own research, Sikanen develops microscale analysis systems for detecting chemicals in the environment.

There is much to be developed in the field of pharmacy, but Generation Green’s scope is even broader than educational reform in its own field.

“We want to create a next-generation education model in the spirit of sustainable development that can be adapted for change management in many fields,” says Tiina Sikanen.