Towards a win-win policy mix for healthier people and planet

Pollution – the key theme of the EU Green Week 2021 – is the largest environmental cause of multiple mental and physical diseases and of premature deaths, writes Viatris Europe Head of Corporate Affairs Victor Mendonca.

The ambitious targets set by the European Commission in the European Climate Law - to include the 2030 emissions reduction target of at least 55% as a steppingstone to the 2050 climate neutrality goal - will help to create a greener Europe and improve people’s health. Just mid-May, the European Commission’s Zero Pollution Action Plan was launched with the aim to reduce air, water and soil pollution by 2050 to levels “no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems.”

As regards to pharmaceuticals, the plan aims to solve pollution from pharmaceuticals in water and soils, in addition to the EU target on antimicrobial resistance reduction. Additionally, patients and clients are more environment-aware and demand that companies take a position and show commitment of this topic.

The link between impact on environment and health could not be stronger than today.

Viatris, a new kind of healthcare company, formed in November 2020, is focused on ensuring sustainable access to medicines worldwide and serve patients regardless of their geography or circumstance. So how does a pharmaceutical company strike this balance between committing to addressing the world’s most pressing health needs and tackling the environmental challenges at hand?

First - managing our water use, air emissions, waste, climate change and energy impact requires an integrated, comprehensive approach. For example, Viatris increased the share of renewable energy by 485% since 2015. We are also working on developing a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in line with the Science-Based Target Initiative's (SBTi) criteria. Additionally, through our membership of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative, we aim to continuously improve social, health, safety and environmentally sustainable outcomes for our supply chains.

Conserving water and proactive wastewater management are core components to managing sustainable operations as well as in promoting access to medicine and good health. For example, in 2020, Viatris has implemented measures at several sites in India to reduce water use, enhance efficiency and ensure that no untreated wastewater enters the environment. While these initiatives were implemented in India, they testify to the company’s commitment to conserving water and proactive wastewater management globally.

Second – companies such as Viatris must look at some of the key topics impacting people and planet health in a holistic way. Take antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a prominent public health threat occurring when bacteria evolve to withstand the effects of antibiotics, making infections harder to treat. Addressing AMR requires a multi-stakeholder cooperation. An effective response to AMR needs to prioritize access to antimicrobials, stewardship measures – including appropriate use and surveillance – and responsible manufacturing. Most antibiotics in the environment are the result of human and animal excretions while a significantly smaller amount is from the manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and their formulation into drugs.

Viatris is committed to reducing pharmaceuticals discharged from our manufacturing operations, and working with stakeholders across the industry to combat AMR through – for examples – being a signatory to the Davos Declaration on combating AMR and a founding board member of the AMR Industry Alliance. Applying the common Antibiotic Manufacturing Framework and engaging with all the antibiotic suppliers so they adopt the framework should also be a priority for all pharmaceutical companies.

Third – we cannot do it just on our side. Partnerships need to be consolidated to promote risk- and science-based policies and practices. Viatris is advocating established industry initiatives on good environmental practices including on responsible manufacturing and effluent management. This is the best way of scaling the application of good environmental practices to facilitate effectiveness across the value chain, help reduce administrative burden and contain cost – all of which serve the two overarching objectives of stable and timely access to high quality and affordable medicine and responsible conduct.

As a pharmaceutical company, Viatris is looking forward to an open and constructive dialogue with stakeholders around Europe to find solutions that guarantee access to medicines and respond to the environmental and health challenges. Partnerships and cooperation are key to the success of a zero-polluted world.

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