Environmental group welcomes DSM-Sinochem and GSK efforts to halt spread of antibiotic resistance

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

DSM-Sinochem plant in Toansa India
DSM-Sinochem plant in Toansa India

Related tags Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic API makers have an obligation to ensure their activities do not spread resistance says a group that welcomed DSM-Sinochem’s commitment to environmentally-friendly production.

Earlier today DSM-Sinochem – a JV between Royal DSM and Sinochem​ – announced its intention to make “sustainable antibiotics” using processes that limit the release of toxic chemicals used during production into the environment.

The firm cited a recent report by campaigning group SumOfUs​ that accused the drug industry and suppliers of furthering the spread of bacterial resistance through environmentally damaging production practices.

Although the DSM-Sinochem statement lacked details, report co-author Natasha Hurley welcomed the firm's stance, telling us “we have spoken with DSM, and we do feel that their commitment is genuine​.”

She pointed out that DSM-Sinochem raised the issue in January in an article in the Telegraph​. The firm also backed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) call to action on waste management at a conference in Sweden in June​.

Pharma role

Hurley added that: “Generally speaking, we see any acknowledgement on the part of the pharmaceutical industry of the need for better management of waste and wastewater as being a step in the right direction.

It’s also worth noting that other companies are taking measures to make their manufacturing processes more environmentally sustainable​” she continued, citing GSK’s amoxicillin plant​ in Singapore as an example.

We welcome companies like DSM and GSK being more publicly vocal about the benefits of greener manufacturing to the extent that this represents an authentic commitment to sustainable production, helps to shift the terms of the debate within the industry, and empowers policymakers to clamp down on environmentally abusive practices​.” 

SumOfUs has called for the environmental impact of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and intermediate production to be included in good manufacturing practices (GMP) guidelines​. However, it also wants drugmakers to take action themselves.

The industry has a clear moral responsibility, independent of regulation, to clean up its act and enhance oversight of its supply chain. We believe all pharmaceutical companies should always hold their suppliers to the highest environmental standard, particularly in light of the grave global health threat posed by antimicrobial resistance​” Hurley said.

Investor concerns

It is no surprise that an environmental campaigning group like SumOfUs wants to combat the spread of antibiotic resistance by clamping down on producers that pollute. But other less environmentally-focused organisations share their concerns.

According to a Financial Times article last month, Nordea Investment Management has accused Big Pharma firms of ignoring environmental damage caused by contractors in India.

The $240bn (Eur217.3bn) investment fund told the paper​ it found “disturbing evidence of poor wastewater management related to pharmaceutical manufacturing and the effect this can have on the surrounding environment and community” ​after visiting Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in April.

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