Pollution from antibiotic plants a hot topic at DCAT week

Society paying for ‘cheap’ antibiotics from suppliers that pollute says DSM-Sinochem

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Waster water from antibiotic API facilities mixing at shared treatment plants
Waster water from antibiotic API facilities mixing at shared treatment plants

Related tags Sewage treatment

API makers that don’t treat wastewater to cut costs and keep prices low are spreading antibiotic resistance says DSM-Sinochem, which wants drug companies to stop buying from firms that “distort” the market.

The firm issued the call ahead of DCAT in New York, this week. Spokesman Mansur Gharabaghi told us society pays the price for ‘savings’ drug firms make by sourcing from irresponsible suppliers whose pollution spreads resistance to antibiotics. 

"While making APIs in a way that pollutes appears to be cheaper than manufacturing in an environmentally sustainable manner, at the end of the day, this is not true at all​" he said, adding that “by polluting, irresponsible manufacturers externalize parts of their internal costs in the form of environmental pollution or the acceleration of AMR.

De facto, irresponsible producers are making society pay for their costs. It is the role of the industry and regulators to ensure that irresponsible polluters are barred from distorting markets and externalizing internal costs​.”

India and China supply 80 to 90%​ of the world’s antibiotic APIs. Gharabaghi suggested irresponsible manufacturers in these countries are furthering the spread of resistance by sending semi treated or untreated water to shared sewage facilities.

Recent studies show, that wastewater treatment plants that receive effluent waste streams from several sources, can contribute in both in the emergence and spread of resistance and form an ideal breeding ground for resistant bacteria​.”

Waste treatment

A 2007 study​ by Swedish researchers supports the idea that mixing of improperly treated waste at sewage plants is a major source of antimicrobial resistance.

The researchers found that a sewage plant in Patancheru, near Hyderabad, India that was receiving waste from 90 API firms was discharging 45kg of ciprofloxacin into local rivers every day. To put this in context, Sweden consumes 9kg of the drug a day.

The recent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance​ – a study funded by the UK Government and Wellcome Trust - also suggested irresponsible API manufacturers in India and China are to blame for much of the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Group effort

Industry groups like Together for Sustainability – whose members​ are based in Europe and the US–assess API manufacturers'’ sustainability credentials. However, excluding irresponsible suppliers altogether will require end users and regulators to take action according to Gharabaghi.

Ultimately, we hope that polluting producers are barred from operating or must upgrade their operations to manufacture in a responsible and sustainable way. Therefore DSM-Sinochem strongly supports and calls for stricter regulation on environmental impact of production.

He added that: “DSM-Sinochem would welcome more regulation to help create a level playing field. At the same time we understand that regulation and legislation takes time. We therefore also call on the industry to take action by amongst others self-regulation and by starting to make environmental considerations part of their sourcing decisions."

DSM-Sinochem is in New York for DCAT Week. The firm said it will actively engage with its peers to further identify industry solutions to fight the global health threat of antimicrobial resistance.

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