An extensive Finnish study aims for sustainable drug development and a cleaner environment

A new project is striving to solve environmental problems associated with drug manufacturing, consumption and disposal.

On a global scale, urbanisation, population growth and ageing are increasing drug consumption and accelerating the accumulation of pharmaceutical substances in the environment. Indeed, environmental risks caused by drug residues have grown. The amount of substances ending up in the environment need not be very large, as hormone and antibiotic residues are harmful already at extremely low concentrations.

SUDDEN, a project headed by Professor Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki, is looking for solutions to sustainability challenges and environmental hazards related to drug manufacturing, consumption and disposal.

The goal of the project, launched in November, is to reduce environmental risks throughout the drug development process, promote the life-cycle assessment of drugs and support the sustainable growth of the pharmaceutical industry in Finland.

“We wish to close the problematic legislative loopholes relating to global drug production chains and environmental risk assessment. In addition, we aim to make the extraction of drug residues from wastewater increasingly effective and promote the responsible utilisation of sludge produced by treatment plants. Further research topics include opportunities to recycle pharmaceutical packaging materials,” Jari Yli-Kauhaluoma explains.

The three-year project has been granted nearly €3.7 million in funding by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland. In addition to the University of Helsinki, the project participants include Aalto University, the University of Eastern Finland, the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT, the Finnish Environment Institute Syke and the Demos Research Institute.