Joakim Larsson, professor in environmental pharmacology at the Gothenburg University, has throughout his career increased the awareness on the environmental aspects of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical production; ranging from which anti-inflammatory drug pose the greatest risks to fish, to how production of antibiotics impacts the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. One of his most recent publications investigates hospital wastewater and how it selects for multi-resistant E.coli strains which could contribute to the development of new resistant bacterial strains.
Prof. Larsson has been an important influencer when it comes to imposing regulations on the production of antimicrobials. A series of research papers from 2007 and onwards showed that concentrations of antibiotics were as high in the wastewater released from Indian drug manufacturers and polluted waterways as in the blood of a treated patient. These findings were a catalyst in the process by generating global interest in the topic. However, a discovery might not be enough. To motivate and facilitate regulatory change, recommendations for actual limits on emissions must be established.
Awareness helps when approaching policy makers who care about the general opinion, but Prof. Larsson also reflects on the potential power that consumers and governments could have on environmentally friendly pharmaceutical production. By demanding and supporting economical appreciation of products/manufacturers which comply with certain standards, if the reimbursement system would let us, we can also help to influence policymakers' actions.
It takes both public pressure and facts, uncovered by scientists like Prof. Larsson, to make change, and a change towards environmentally-friendly pharmaceutical production and addressing antimicrobial resistance is worth the attention.
References for further reading
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