Last month 193 countries agreed to tackle antimicrobial resistance at a United Nations General Assembly in New York, US. The signatories committed to strategies ranging from curbing inappropriate antibiotic use to encouraging development of new anti-infectives.
The declaration – which is in line with the Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance unveiled at the WEF in Davos in January – was accompanied by the presentation of a “roadmap” outlining the drug industry’s efforts to address its role in the spread of AMR.
A central part of the roadmap is the commitment by its 13 signatories to review supply chains and to work with active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) suppliers to establish a common framework for assessing and managing antibiotic discharge.
API plant pollution
Several non-industry groups have suggested that untreated waste water from API plants is furthering the spread of AMR in recent years. Last year, for example, Nordea Asset Management said it would reconsider its investment in drug companies shown to source from suppliers that pollute.
In March, Jerker Fick from Umea University in Sweden called for firms to share details of suppliers’ green credentials. More recently the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) named untreated waste water discharged by ingredient firms as an “ignored cause” of AMR.
The drug industry’s view on the role of waste water in AMR is more mixed. In June the ABPI told us the “the role of the environment in the development of AMR is still unclear.”
Others in the sector – like roadmap co-author and signatory DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals (DSP) – have acknowledged the role pollution from plants plays in AMR.
CEO Karl Rotthier told us “the irresponsible manufacturing of antibiotics forms a particular risk for the acceleration of AMR via the uncontrolled release of antibiotics into the environment” citing recent research.
Drug firms that signed the roadmap have each committed to review their “manufacturing and supply chains, and work with stakeholders to establish a common framework for assessing and managing antibiotic discharge.”
Rotthier described the roadmap as a major step forward, but admitted the industry can do more and suggested that a “quality mark” for producers that can demonstrate a sustainable supply chain would introduce an element of patient choice to the fight against AMR.
“This would allow buyers and patients to choose antibiotics that have been made without unnecessarily contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistance. We strongly believe that patients and buyers of generic antibiotics should have the right to choose high-quality antibiotics from non-polluting sources.
He cited similar schemes introduced in the fishing and paper industries as examples of labelling schemes that have had a positive impact, adding that “we strongly believe that patients and buyers of generic antibiotics should have the right to choose high-quality antibiotics from non-polluting sources.”