Conserving water and avoiding risks from pharmaceutical micro-pollutants reaching the environment
For Novartis responsible water management means minimizing our water footprint along the entire materials supply chain, and avoiding potential risks related to pharmaceuticals reaching the natural environment.
While free cooling with water from underground or surface sources is an effective method to save energy in areas where water is abundant, the consumption of fresh water by industry can be critical in areas where water is scarce. Water recycling and practices of water savings are therefore a priority for our operations which are located in water scare locations. Equally we put our eyes on those parts of the supply chain that have a high water footprint and are located in water scarce regions.
We closely monitor all water streams into and out of our Group company sites, which helps ensure effective management of water resources and costs. Sites with high level of water scarcity and high water usage are included in a corporate water saving program.
Our major area of concern on water is the prevention of pharmaceuticals entering the aquatic environment. The majority of pharmaceuticals in the environment are a result of excretions of treated patients and improper disposal of unused or expired medicine. However, relatively small quantities can come from drug manufacturing effluents and R&D facilities.
We regularly monitor the levels of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in Novartis effluents and in the aquatic environment as a result of Novartis activities. These levels are below those approved as safe by medical regulatory agencies and therefore do not present a health risk. The total quantity of drug substance released has been reduced to below 0.2%.
Many of the major Novartis products have undergone a full regulatory assessment for potential environmental long-term risks, including:
Various late-stage pipeline products are currently being assessed and the key results of these investigations will be made available to the public by European Union regulators.
We constantly strive to minimize any release of APIs into wastewater from our operations, following a site- and substance-specific approach. We have banned the disposal of any organic hazardous waste, including pharmaceutical waste, in landfills. Such waste is treated for further processing or incinerated in approved, state-of-the-art facilities.
Recommendation of Novartis for the disposal of unused medicines
Society's awareness and concern regarding environmental issues continues to grow, as does the technical ability to detect substances of synthetic or natural origin in our surroundings. Novartis shares society’s desire to protect the environment and is taking necessary steps to minimize the environmental impact of its activities and products over their lifecycle. One step concerns the appropriate and environmentally benign disposal of unused medicines.
Novartis recommends to patients and consumers of pharmaceutical and medicinal products to dispose of any unused or expired medicinal product or waste material in accordance with local requirements as well as disposal instructions on the patient information materials provided with the product.
Novartis reports total effluent load for chemical oxygen demand, nitrogen, phosphate and total suspended solids, i.e. amounts actually reaching the aquatic environment. They are determined from concentrations of effluent parameters multiplied by flow volumes of wastewater discharged from our facilities after treatment.
When discharged wastewater is treated off-site, in public wastewater treatment plants for example, the specific removal efficiency of such treatment is considered for the amounts reported.