Julze Alejandre, a PhD candidate at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), is playing a significant role in the development of policy recommendations aimed at reducing pharmaceutical pollution in the United Kingdom.

The policy recommendations were launched at the UK Parliament on July 19 and hosted by Baroness Bennett, a Green Party Peer at the House of Lords.

Pharmaceutical pollution is a growing concern for both human and environmental health. It impacts water quality, contributes to biodiversity loss, and can lead to the development of antimicrobial-resistant organisms in the environment.

Julze said: “While the UK Government has committed to developing sustainable and low-carbon health systems, little attention has been given to reducing pollution from prescribed pharmaceuticals.”

The policy document proposes an approach called ‘eco-directed and sustainable’ prescribing of pharmaceuticals as an upstream intervention to tackle pharmaceutical pollution. This approach emphasises maximising non-pharmacologic interventions, optimising medicine use, discussing the environmental impact of pharmaceuticals during patient consultations, and making healthcare decisions that prioritise both patient needs and environmental considerations.

The policy brief contains 15 recommendations that span various areas, including public health, promoting greener healthcare practices, incorporating environmental considerations into healthcare decision-making, and conducting extended environment risk assessments of pharmaceuticals. These recommendations were developed through consultations with experts and stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and civil society organisations.

Julze, who is a senior parliamentary intern at the office of Baroness Bennett, expressed the need for greater awareness among policymakers about pharmaceutical pollution.

He said: “I hope that these policy recommendations will help raise awareness and prompt action within the UK Parliament to address this issue.”

Julze previously led the development of policy recommendations on eco-directed and sustainable pharmaceutical prescribing in Scotland during his policy fellowship with Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters. He was subsequently selected as one of two inaugural parliamentary interns funded by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), where he provides policy research support for Baroness Bennett in the areas of One Health and Planetary Health.

The policy brief, titled Eco-directed and Sustainable Pharmaceutical Prescribing in the United Kingdom, can be accessed on the BSAC’s website. The parliamentary internship program, which has been highly successful, will be inviting UK PhD students to apply for its second cycle starting in September 2023.