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The First Step towards Sustainable Medicine Prescribing in Scotland

The First Step towards Sustainable Medicine Prescribing in Scotland
The First Step towards Sustainable Medicine Prescribing in Scotland
“We look forward to contributing to this exciting collaboration by developing environmental modelling tools informed by novel data as part of our ongoing ‘Emerging Water Futures’ project funded by the Scottish Government and to helping to address this important problem”

Researchers from the James Hutton Institute will form a partnership with a project team aiming to develop a framework for an eco-directed formulary that will incorporate environmental data on medicines into the prescribing process, alongside clinical and cost effectiveness. The team which includes NHS Highland, UHI North Highland’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI), and the University of Nottingham has recently been awarded a £100,000 Medical Research Council.

Pharmaceutical pollution is a well-recognised global public health and environmental issue. This can negatively impact the environment through water pollution and large carbon emissions – medicines contribute 25% of the NHS carbon footprint. It can also exacerbate the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through the environment.

Pharmaceuticals enter the water environment when people taking medicines go to the toilet (between 30-100% of a dose is excreted), and when partially used or expired medicines are inappropriately flushed down toilets/sinks instead of being returned to a pharmacy for proper disposal. Wastewater treatment facilities were not designed to remove such pollutants from wastewater, and medicines like antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anti-depressants have been detected in rivers and lochs in Scotland. Medicines have biological effects on our bodies and may have similar effects on aquatic life.

Dr Miriam Glendell, a catchment scientist and systems modeller, at the James Hutton Institute said: “We look forward to contributing to this exciting collaboration by developing environmental modelling tools informed by novel data as part of our ongoing ‘Emerging Water Futures’ project funded by the Scottish Government and to helping to address this important problem.”

Each health board has a list of preferred prescribing choices for clinicians called a formulary. Currently these formularies consider patient safety, clinical effectiveness, and cost effectiveness, but they do not consider the environmental impact of a medicine.

The research team will work in partnership with Scottish Water, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and the University of Uppsala to embed effective cross-organisational engagement throughout this project. Project partners will provide valuable contributions, including technical expertise in environmental modelling, analysis of environmental impact data, and policy and regulatory guidance.

Scottish Water's Chief Scientist Elise Cartmell said: "We are very supportive of this research project. It will help improve our collective awareness and understanding of the impact of pharmaceuticals in the water environment, support development of sustainable solutions to reduce this type of pollution and ultimately protect both water quality and the efficacy of medicines."

With this funding, the research team and partners will adopt a novel, trans-disciplinary approach integrating public health, prescribing, environmental science, and social science methods and data. A framework will be developed to help decision makers take account of the environmental impact of a medicine, along with environmental monitoring data, excretion profiles, and wastewater information (e.g., how much gets removed during wastewater treatment). The framework will enable better informed and more sustainable prescribing choices, while at the same time ensuring the chosen medicines will result in the desired clinical outcomes.

This project builds on activity of the cross-sector One Health Breakthrough Partnership (OHBP) – a collaboration between NHS Highland, Scottish Water, SEPA, ERI, and the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW). It will use a novel visualisation tool launched by SEPA on behalf of the OHBP, which includes data on medicines detected in the Scottish water environment and NHS Scotland prescribing data. The tool was designed to help develop a better understanding of the link between medicine use and pharmaceutical pollution in the environment, and support activity to address this environmental issue.

This work is a first step towards the improvement of medicine prescribing in Scotland to reduce pharmaceutical pollution. The research will generate new knowledge sharing and awareness of the environmental impact of medicines, and help develop new solutions to complex sustainability issues while benefitting the NHS, prescribers, patients, and the environment we rely on.

For more information, please visit the project page.

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Adam Walker, Communications Officer, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395095 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard).


Printed from /news/first-step-towards-sustainable-medicine-prescribing-scotland on 10/12/22 05:41:38 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.