Last week, researchers told in-pharmatechnologist.com that producing active pharmaceutical ingedients (APIs) is one of the most wasteful chemical processes in the world and, despite industry claims to the contrary, has become less efficient in the chiral era.
We put this to Paul Anastas, director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at the Yale Department of Chemistry, who agreed with the assessment of the current state of affairs but said drugmakers are showing signs of improvement.
"The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of significant waste generation due to the complexity of the products and multi-step syntheses in the production" he said, adding that "Yes, it is historically very materially and energy inefficient."
However, this inefficiency is a driver for change according Anastas, who said: "I cannot tell you of a pharma company in 2014 that doesn't have an active green chemistry program that spreads from discovery to process to EHS."
Anastas, who is widely acknowledged as having coined the phrase "green chemistry," is also more supportive of forecasts the market for such mnanufacturing technologies will be worth $100bn by 2020.
He said that: "The market projections of $100b are actually fairly recent and continuing to grow" adding "the easiest place for examples is in the national awards for green chemistry where pharma and associated sectors are frequent winners."
Anastas also pointed to the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, which is due be announced this week, as further evidence of the drug industry's growing interest in environmentally friendly production methods.
"It would be hard to imagine that green chemistry won't touch at least 50% of all pharma products and processes by 2020 so you can do the math on the revenue impacts."