Green medicines

Thursday, April 08th, 2010 by hinrich

Green medicines

When I search for medicine that is either "green" or friendly to the environment ("eco friendly"), I only stumble into terms like wellness, acupuncture, massage, herbal formulations, alternative healing, homeopathy, etc.

However, there is still very little to be found regarding efforts to design drugs that are both efficacious and biodegradable once they leave our body. Of course, for a drug to do its job it needs to be stable long enough and not be broken down immediately after it enters the body. That's why the majority of the big pharmaceutical companies still work on classic chemistry based drugs. The problem is that drugs that do not get metabolized by our bodies will end up in the environment and may find their way back to us via the drinking water.

I wonder why we do not try to make more use of modern delivery techniques that are e.g., developed for difficult to dissolve compounds. Those might help transport more fragile compounds to the place where they need to do their job. Furthermore, the testing pipeline that is in place at large pharmaceutical companies and which is often used to screen "classic" chemical compounds could also be used to test "biodegradable" (potentially naturally occurring) molecules.

It is not enough to try to minimize the impact that the manufacturing of medicines has on the environment or the running of a pharmaceutical business. We should also think more about the products we are making - much like companies such as Shell or Intel need to think and consider the impact of their products on the environment. If we could make products that can be fully "recycled" by the environment, we should have an obligation to try!

Posted in Green