It might come as a surprise to many that the production of crucial pharmaceuticals is linked to environmental degradation. As per a study by The Conversation in 2019, it was revealed that per million dollars, pharmaceutical companies generate more carbon dioxide equivalents than the automobile industry. To put it in perspective, the pharmaceutical market, being 28 percent smaller, is still 13 percent more polluting than the auto sector, as observed in 2015. This implies a dire need for the pharmaceutical industry to curb its carbon emissions for the welfare of our planet and its inhabitants.
Fortunately, the University of Bath’s scientists in the United Kingdom might have found an eco-friendlier method for the industry to achieve this goal. In a study published in ChemSusChem journal, they introduced a process that converts β-pinene, a turpentine component, into pharmaceutical precursors. These precursors were then utilized to produce paracetamol and ibuprofen. Typically, the manufacturing of these pain relievers involves chemical precursors sourced from crude oil. In contrast, turpentine is a waste byproduct generated by the paper industry, exceeding 350,000 metric tons annually. The researchers also successfully synthesized 4-HAP, a precursor for beta-blockers, the asthma drug salbutamol, and an array of domestic cleaning products using turpentine.
This “bio-refinery” process proposed by the team is not only environmentally sustainable, but could also stabilize drug costs for consumers as turpentine isn’t affected by geopolitical pressures that usually cause energy and oil prices to surge. One current downside of this approach is that producing drugs from turpentine is more expensive than crude oil. The scientists speculate that consumers might be prepared to pay marginally higher prices for greener drugs. However, the reality is that increased costs for medical relief is a daunting prospect for most individuals, particularly when they’re unwell or in pain.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Green Pharmaceutical Production
What is the environmental impact of the pharmaceutical industry according to the 2019 study by The Conversation?
According to the study, the pharmaceutical industry produces more tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per million dollars than the automotive industry, making it 13 percent more polluting despite being 28 percent smaller.
Who are the scientists finding a greener method for pharmaceutical production and where are they from?
The scientists are from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. They have proposed a process of using β-pinene, a component of turpentine, to produce pharmaceutical precursors for drugs like ibuprofen and paracetamol.
What is turpentine and where is it sourced from in this study?
Turpentine, used in this study, is a byproduct of the paper industry. It’s produced on a large scale, exceeding 350,000 metric tons annually.
How could the new process impact drug costs for consumers?
This new process could potentially lead to more consistent drug costs for consumers. Unlike crude oil, turpentine is not influenced by the geopolitical pressures that often cause energy and oil prices to surge.
What is the main challenge with the new process of using turpentine for drug production?
The main challenge is that it currently costs more to produce drugs from turpentine than it does from crude oil. It’s believed that consumers might be willing to pay slightly higher prices for more sustainable drugs, but higher costs for medical relief can be daunting for most individuals, particularly when they’re unwell or in pain.