A BLOG POST By David Earnshaw, Associate Vice President, Public Policy Europe, MSD

For generations now, MSD has been dedicated to helping people improve their health and wellbeing, and our mission has always been to discover, develop and provide innovative medicines and vaccines that save and improve lives around the world. Last year our medicines and vaccines were able to reach 239 million people worldwide. That said, healthy people need a healthy planet; new generations need a secure future without being under the threat of climate change. There is a collective responsibility, of which we are part, to address the environmental implications of the production, as well as the use and disposal of medicines as outlined in the European Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy’s Roadmap. We walk the talk of our legacy by being responsibly green as employees and citizens. We believe we can do our part in building a healthier and more environmentally sustainable future for Europe.

MSD is increasingly investing into improving the efficiency of the company’s manufacturing processes. In the last 6 years we have reduced water use by 3.6 million cubic meters since 2015 through projects at our sites. We are also investing in green chemistry as one of the primary ways in which we are reducing the use of hazardous substances and overall materials in the manufacturing of our products. MSD has won US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Chemistry awards each of the past four years.

We have really upped our game in recent years, reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26.5% since 2015. We are conducting reviews into our packaging to reduce waste and make it more environmentally friendly. We understand that our supply chain has an environmental footprint many times larger than our own operations, which is why we are engaging with our strategic suppliers to help them reduce their impact. We also continue to upgrade our facilities, in particular to make better use of renewable forms of energy. One of our new labs in County Carlow, Ireland, for example, recently received an award for excellence in energy efficient design.

In addition, MSD is contributing to public private partnership initiatives such as the new IMI PREMIER project aimed at delivering an information and assessment system for characterising the potential environmental risks of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and making the available environmental data more accessible for all stakeholders. This project has been founded on the principles of product stewardship, on which the Eco-Pharmaco-Stewardship (EPS) initiative has been developed. The EPS initiative considers the entire lifecycle of the medicine and addresses the roles and responsibilities of all actors involved including public services, the pharmaceuticals industry, environmental experts, doctors, pharmacists, and patients.

Furthermore, MSD is involved in other European initiatives, such as the medsdisposal.eu campaign, which aims to raise awareness on how to dispose of appropriately unused or expired medicines in Europe.

The biggest challenge we collectively face is that the major source of pharmaceuticals entering into the environment is via patient excretion following the use of medicines that are taken to prevent, cure or alleviate a medical condition. This is a particular issue in the field of antibiotics, where antibiotics released in the environment through patient – and animal – excretions contribute to anti-microbial resistance, which is already one of the biggest health threats we are facing. There is no easy solution to this, but as a member of the AMR Industry Alliance and a major contributor to the AMR Action Fund, we are delivering on our commitments to reduce the environmental impacts from antibiotic residues in wastewater, as well as continuing research to find new antibiotics to fight resistance and save lives.

MSD is committed to creating a sustainable workplace. Our employees are strongly committed to creating an environmentally friendly workplace, and as a company, we support and encourage employee driven initiatives, such as eliminating plastic bottles in the workplace. Our employees have a clear environmental mindset, which contributes to our corporate culture, and supports good choices to save our planet.

We are aware that there is much work to be done. We are stepping up our efforts to address climate change and other environmental challenges, while at the same time continuing to make a difference in the lives of people globally through our innovative medicines, vaccines, and animal health products.

We know there will be challenges ahead and we understand that resolution of these issues requires a cooperative effort with all the members of our medicines supply chain. This will require innovative ideas and outside the box thinking; something for which MSD has been renowned for generations.