3 questions to Nicolai Schaaf about the pharma buzz

Blog Jul 09, 2019

SIWI’s team working to promote safe production of pharmaceuticals is busier than ever. Last week they appeared during Sweden’s Politicians’ Week in Almedalen and now more projects are in the pipeline. Nicolai Schaaf explains why there is such a buzz.


You just came back from Sweden’s Politicians’ Week – what happened there?

The Politicians’ Week is a yearly gathering in Sweden of politicians, NGOs, companies and many others to discuss all kinds of issues. We can see a growing interest in the question of safe pharmaceutical production, not least how we can reduce the risk of spreading antimicrobial resistance.

SIWI’s Swedish Water House organized its own seminars on many topics and dedicated a half-day to sustainable consumption, with one section on pharmaceuticals. This is a truly global issue, not only because antibiotics produced in one part of the world are consumed in many other places. The production and consumption also contribute to the spread of antimicrobial resistance, which is a huge challenge that must be tackled at international level. Part of the problem is insufficient treatment of wastewater from pharmaceutical plants.
I also participated in a seminar organized by the business association LIF and was interviewed by the magazines Läkemedelsvärlden and Aktuell Hållbarhet.

What happens next?

SIWI’s REAP project, Reducing Emissions from Antibiotics Production, is involved in many different initiatives and dialogues. Next my colleague Iris Panorel will participate in the 2nd Saving Lives Sustainably: Global Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 18-19 July. She will address the session Water Management: Pharmaceuticals in the Environment and talk about SIWI’s work with stakeholder dialogues. We believe in dialogues about how to create sustainable supply chains and procurement of pharmaceuticals, not least antibiotics.

What are the most important things to do?

This is a very exciting time, because we can really see how these issues are gaining traction! There is a new understanding of why this is important and what can be done. The United Nations is already working with procurement as a tool to impose standards around emissions and many countries are interested in following suit. But for this to be meaningful, companies must be more transparent about their processes. Most likely, we need regulations, international standards as well as industry-wide agreements. It is a complex process, but it is gaining momentum.