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The Sustainable Inhaler Challenge: Learning from Non-Pharma Industry Trends and Drivers

Anderson GJ.

Respiratory Drug Delivery 2020. Volume 1, 2020: 205-216.


Climate change is a significant threat to our planet. Every individual, every government, every organization and every company must take accountability to reduce their environmental impact. A sustainability roadmap for respiratory disease management is needed because inhalation platforms are increasingly under the spotlight due to the fact that the most commonly used respiratory device, the metered dose inhaler (MDI), uses hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) propellants which are potent greenhouse gases. The inhalation industry has a responsibility to ensure that these valuable medicines aren’t part of the problem and that inhalers become more sustainable.

Opportunities and challenges exist for the inhalation industry to minimize our carbon footprint and reduce our overall environmental impact. Inhalation products currently follow a linear economy (‘take, make, dispose’), but there may be an opportunity to transform to a circular economy which is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. A ‘Respiratory Sustainability Roadmap’ should consider standardized metrics for life cycle analysis of inhalers, propellent replacement options, shared recycling schemes, and sustainable device design using ‘Green Design Guides’. Poor adherence is never green, so strategies are needed to improve device use and training to ensure patients do not waste their medications. Sustainable device design will be increasingly important as electronic devices are introduced to the inhaler marketplace. The purported benefits that can be gained in respiratory outcomes with smart inhalers must be balanced with the increasingly important area of inhaler sustainability.

There is no single solution that mitigates the impact that inhalers have on the environment but there are some real deliverable initiatives that the industry must undertake to ensure credibility with our healthcare providers, stakeholders and patients. This must be done as a wider industry drive; it will take time and it will take a concentrated and aligned effort.

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