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What sustainability measures can we take in pharmacy?

Following the first Health Day at the United Nations climate change conference, PDA member and Pharmacist Clinical Writer, Sandra Hicks shares several ways that pharmacists, patients and pharmaceutical companies can help to combat climate change.

Fri 9th February 2024 The PDA

The first ever Health Day at the United Nations climate change conference, COP28 Dubai, was held on 3 December 2023. It ended with a new Declaration on Climate and Health, with 124 countries signing. The aim was preparing healthcare systems to cope with climate change and acknowledging governments’ need to protect people’s health.

The Lancet Countdown Report highlighted that life-threatening temperatures are becoming more frequent, transmission of deadly infectious diseases is rising due to increased climatic suitability for vectors, and weather extremities are causing food and shelter insecurity for millions of people. Approximately half of the world’s children, a group uniquely affected by the changing climate, live in countries rated at high-risk of climate change impacts. It’s been underappreciated that climate change is a health issue. Advances such as the Declaration are hard-won, but as current commitments on reducing emissions aren’t enough to prevent catastrophic outcomes, this is no time for complacency.

What can we do locally?


  • Reduce overprescribing and medicines optimisation to avoid waste.
  • Advise patients on improving lifestyle by exercising and eating healthy, consider plant-based diets.
  • Help patients to manage their own medicines; follow-up and review their needs regularly.
  • Link the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH) four principles of sustainability to pharmacy initiatives:
  1. Prevention (the most sustainable medicine is the one not used in the first place)
  2. Patient empowerment
  3. Lean service delivery
  4. Low carbon alternatives


  • Ask patients to return unused medicines to their local pharmacy to be disposed of appropriately, rather than putting any in household waste or tipping liquids down the sink or flushing them down the toilet.
  • Ask them to check their dispensed medicines before leaving the pharmacy to avoid waste from unwanted/incorrect supplies.
  • Reassure them not to feel guilty about using pressurised metred dose (pMDI) inhalers, as keeping their respiratory conditions well-controlled and themselves out of hospital is the most sustainable option.

Patients can register on Terracycle/Aldi’s blister-pack recycling scheme again soon, downloading two postal-labels and returning up to 30 blister strips per package.


  • Introduce more recycling schemes and extend Chiesi’s inhaler recycling scheme or Novo Nordisk’s Pencycle scheme.
  • Make biodegradable packaging.

All individuals:

  • Consciously switch to ethical banks which don’t finance fossil fuel industries.
  • Request that our pension companies and other organisations we interact with,  stop investing in them too.

Overall, small actions collectively have a big impact.

By PDA member and Pharmacist Clinical Writer, Sandra Hicks

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