WHAT IS SUDDEN?
The environmental impact of pharmaceuticals is a growing problem that affects the entire globe. As societies become urbanised and the world’s population grows and ages, the use of medicinal products along with their chemical load on the environment increases.
The problem is multi-faceted and involves all phases of the lifecycle of medicines. First of all, a large proportion of raw materials used for pharmaceuticals are produced in developing countries where the control of environmental emissions that result from production processes is often deficient.
The challenge in drug development is that environmental friendliness and medical effectiveness do not always coincide. A certain drug may be an effective means to combat disease in humans but contaminates the environment. The environment is burdened when discarded drugs or compounds traced to the metabolisms of humans and animals end up in wastewater or in nature.
The disposal of unused medicine is also a significant problem. In addition, pharmaceutical packaging often uses environmentally problematic materials, such as aluminium and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which are currently difficult to recycle. When not recycled, these materials increase the consumption of depleted natural resources to an unnecessary extent.
SUDDEN, or Sustainable Drug Discovery and Development with End-of-Life Yield, is a multidisciplinary research consortium dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals and supporting sustainable growth in the pharmaceutical industry. The project, which is running between 2018-2021 and 2022-2023, is funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland. The initiative is being carried out by the University of Helsinki, University of Eastern Finland, Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology, Aalto University, the Finnish Environment Institute and think tank Demos Helsinki.