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Advocate for action from pharmacy leadership

Climate change is a health crisis – “the single biggest health threat to humanity,” according to the World Health Organization.  Ironically, healthcare is a significant contributor to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, the healthcare sector contributes 8.5% of total emissions. Pharmaceuticals and chemicals account for nearly 20% of this. Additionally, global pharmaceutical pollution in the environment has been increasingly identified as a widespread threat to public health, yet our research efforts, policies, and practices are currently inadequate to address the magnitude of this problem.

Multiple calls to action illustrate pharmacists’ concern and highlight opportunities the profession has to mitigate its climate and environmental impacts and to promote equitable climate adaptation measures, including: 

  • Addressing global pharmaceutical pollution by reducing drug waste through promoting adherence, decreasing unnecessary medication use, considering the ecological footprint of individual drugs during prescribing, and encouraging responsible drug disposal or recycling. 

  • Educating patients about their individual climate-related health risks and taking proactive steps to mitigate climate-related health inequities.  

  • Promoting pharmacists’ roles in climate resilience, including ensuring care continuity and essential medication access during extreme weather events. 

  • Advocating for laws and regulations to limit unnecessary use of environmentally detrimental chemical and packaging, and to promote mandatory measurement, reporting, and restriction of healthcare systems’ greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • Establishing pharmacists’ role in interprofessional efforts to address the effects of climate change and environment on human health. 

While pharmacists may implement some of these changes in their individual practice, organizational leadership and support is critical to making these and other actions feasible on a large scale and in an urgent timeframe. Other health professions organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have amended their policies to include environmental sustainability measures. The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has made sustainability in pharmacy a development goal. In the United Kingdom, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has declared a climate and ecological emergency. 

We are calling upon our prominent US pharmacy organizations, AACP, ACCP, APhA, ASHP, NCPA, to follow the lead of the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, as well as the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP), the UK Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia, to:

  • Formally recognize the link between climate change and health, as well as the contributions of pharmacy and the healthcare sector to climate change and environmental harms. 

  • Promote pharmacy involvement in climate mitigation and adaptation measures, including through education initiatives and grant funding. 

  • Commit to considering sustainability in all future decisions and policies. 

As health professionals, we must consider climate action imperative. 

Sign the petition to send this message to pharmacy organizations around the world!

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Connect with other pharmacy professionals working in various areas to promote climate-smart pharmacy practice. Whether you are looking to share teaching materials for students and educators, discussions on sustainability initiatives, shared successes, or networking opportunities-- we encourage you to pose questions and provide resources and expertise.

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