The pharmaceutical industry and water are inextricably linked, with the pharmaceutical industry now being one of the most significant users of water resources.
The pharmaceutical industry is an integral part of our economy; it employs thousands of people and provides jobs for millions more. It is also a major contributor to the economy and contributes a major part to the country’s GDP. So why do we need to be concerned about the pharmaceutical industry? The answer lies in how much water they use and what impact that has on us all.
Water and the Pharmaceutical Industry: a Brief History
As mentioned above, the pharmaceutical industry is a large user of water resources. In fact, according to Waterworld, the global pharmaceutical industry uses between 1-2% of total world freshwater resources (1). This figure is expected to rise as population growth and industrialization increase.
There have been many studies into the effects that the pharmaceutical industry can have on local populations and ecosystems but there is still no conclusive evidence either way. One study found no effect from the industry on local water quality or quantity (2) while others have found slight increases in nitrate levels (3), higher rates of infectious diseases among children living near factories producing medicines (4), and increased hospital admissions due to respiratory illnesses (5).
Clean Water Requirement in Producing Medicines
In order to produce medicine, there are three main steps involved: production, formulation, and packaging. These processes require huge amounts of water and therefore the industry must source its water requirements prior to starting any manufacturing process. They will then continue using this water throughout the entire production cycle.
During the manufacturing stage of drug development, the raw materials used by the company are typically sourced from natural deposits which require them to pay for the water rights associated with those sites. After the required amount of water has been extracted, the material is processed and converted to a finished product. During this step, the company may have to purchase additional water to dilute the mixture so that it meets the specifications set out by the regulatory authorities.
This involves mixing different types of chemicals together to achieve the desired result. For example, if a company wishes to create a new antibiotic, they will mix various chemicals together until they find the ideal combination that will kill off bacteria effectively. Once the chemical formula has been created, it is then tested over a period of time before it is ready for market.
Once the final product has been successfully formulated, it is packaged into bottles, sachets, etc. This usually involves filling vials or containers with the right dosage and adding preservatives along with other additives.
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