Health and water are closely interconnected. For Novartis, responsible water management means using water efficiently and safely throughout the lifecycle of our products, including in our supply chain, and avoiding potential risks related to pharmaceuticals reaching the natural environment. We aim to be a water steward wherever we operate, working to achieve water sustainability and helping ensure sufficient and safe water.
We endorse the CEO Water Mandate and are committed to advancing water stewardship in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Our efforts and progress have been consistently recognized. For two consecutive years, Novartis has been included on the CDP Water A List, which recognizes progress toward water stewardship.
We recognize that water is a valuable resource which needs to be used responsibly particularly in regions of the world where water is scarce. Water recycling and practices of water savings are therefore a priority for our operations. We closely monitor all water streams into and out of our sites, which helps ensure effective management of water resources and costs. Sites are encouraged to use water from underground or surface sources for cooling because this can save energy in areas where water is abundant. However, we take care to do this in a sustainable way and without impact to the environment.
Access to water is crucial during drug production both as a solvent in the production process, as well as for cleaning and cooling processes. The resulting wastewater also needs to be effectively treated in order to avoid potential risks, including drug substances, reaching the natural environment. Novartis Technical Operations (NTO) is installing new technologies at our production sites to use water efficiently and safely. For example, in Singapore, recycling solutions have been implemented to enable production in water-stressed areas.
An emerging concern on water quality is the prevention of pharmaceuticals entering the aquatic environment. The majority of pharmaceuticals in the environment are a result of excretions from patients being treated with the medicines and improper disposal of unused or expired medicine. Relatively small quantities can come from drug manufacturing effluents and R&D facilities. We actively manage pharmaceutical discharges, including antibiotics, from our own and our supplier production sites. For example, at our NTO site in Targu Mures, Romania, we have built a new wastewater treatment plant, equipped with the latest carbon-filter technology to better purify water from active pharmaceutical ingredients.
In addition, we aim to engage with local communities and educate them on appropriate use and disposal of medicines, especially antibiotics. For example, through our Healthy Family programs in India and Africa, we educate rural communities on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) antimicrobial resistance and safe disposal of medicines.
In Europe, we participate in Medsdisposal, a joint initiative between European healthcare, industry and student organizations for safe disposal of unused medicine. The initiative aims to raise awareness on how to dispose medicines appropriately and provides information on current disposal schemes available across European countries.
Making medicines environmentally sustainable Pharmaceuticals are highly active in small amounts – which is beneficial for patients, but potentially harmful for the environment. Novartis is working across its pipeline to foresee and prevent the unintended impact of drugs. All new products undergo a regulatory assessment for potential long-term environmental risks and our legacy products run through a targeted assessment to prioritize pharmaceuticals for further environmental testing. Read more
Dissolving a toxic tradition Organic solvents are as natural to chemistry as the ubiquitous test tubes. But the fossil origin of some widely used solvents, which are also used in drug development, are a threat to the environment. Special soap-like substances that can work like nanomachines might dissolve part of this toxic problem and help chemistry become more natural. Read more
Novartis participated successfully in the iPiE project (Intelligence-led Assessment of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment), funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). The IMI is a public-private partnership between pharmaceutical companies, the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). This project developed a framework to identify the potential risk of pharmaceuticals to the natural environment and methods to prioritize legacy pharmaceuticals for targeted environmental risk assessment. Following the success of iPiE, Novartis joined IMI-PREMIER, a new 6-year project with the IMI, focused on evaluating and mitigating risk of medicines in the environment. The PREMIER (Prioritisation and Risk Evaluation of Medicines in the EnviRonment) project aims to deliver an innovative framework for characterizing the environmental risks of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), which can ultimately be used to explore and promote greener drug design. In addition, we recently joined the Responsible Antibiotics Manufacturing Platform (RAMP), an alliance to combat antimicrobial resistance by producing antibiotics in a manner that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
In India, we are working with local partners and communities in the State of Telangana to implement an innovative watershed project that aims to be a sustainable solution for the industry, while also having a positive impact on society in general. In addition, as an active member of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative, we are supporting the State of Telangana’s efforts to revitalize the Musi River, a vital water source to the Hyderabad area which has been impacted by poor wastewater management.