Antimicrobial resistance is one of the world’s worst health threats and it is linked to how antibiotics are produced. The Responsible Antibiotics Manufacturing Platform, RAMP, seeks to set a new standard for the industry. Through the platform, procurers, regulators, and companies co-create the business case for more sustainably produced antibiotics.
Awareness is growing that the production of antibiotics contributes to the spread of antimicrobial resistance, one of humanity’s greatest health threats. But the problem has so far been difficult to tackle. Many companies are not willing to disclose information about their manufacturing practices, or that of their suppliers, making it impossible for procurers and consumers to choose products that are sustainably produced. In turn, companies have few incentives to shift to more responsible practices, which may come with additional costs and no rewards.
RAMP aims to break the current stalemate through an innovative approach that creates new incentives. A proactive group of antibiotic manufacturers are joining forces with the most forward-thinking buyers and regulators to strengthen and synergize their strategies, with the goal of reducing emissions from antibiotics production. All stakeholders contribute to jointly define higher standards for emissions as well as for information and transparency.
Together we establish a level playing field where it makes sense to produce antibiotics in a manner that is sustainable also in the long term.
The World Health Organization warns that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could claim 10 million lives per year by 2050 and jeopardize many of the health gains made in the past century. Pharmaceutical production is increasingly seen as an important driver of AMR, alongside the use of antibiotics in health care, and the misuse in livestock and crops agriculture.
For the past few years, SIWI has worked to improve manufacturing processes in the pharmaceutical industry to reduce the spread of AMR. In 2020, SIWI launched RAMP, building on earlier projects and collaborations.
The platform was first presented in India, a major manufacturing hub determined to reduce AMR-driving emissions from its production facilities. It has also attracted interest in European countries that import antibiotics. Partners include the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Centrient Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis, Sandoz, and Shawview Consulting. The AMR Industry Alliance is a key technical advisor.
All antibiotics released into the environment drive antimicrobial resistance worldwide and must be addressed globally. At the same time, we must not forget the high human and environmental price paid locally, in the areas of production. People living near pharmaceutical production hubs such as Hyderabad in India report skin diseases, fish kills and poisoned livestock. Scientific studies have shown high levels of pharmaceutical residues in surface water and groundwater.
The role of waste and wastewater emissions from pharmaceutical production in triggering antimicrobial resistance is not yet fully understood and requires more research. But we do know that there are many actions that could be taken immediately to reduce pollution from pharma production. It is just hard to get started. Individual companies are reluctant to invest in modernizing their water treatment facilities if their competitors are content just being compliant with the minimum regulations. Procurers find it difficult to develop sustainability criteria since companies are not transparent about their activities.
RAMP has been launched to address these underlying causes that have so far prevented the necessary transformation of pharma production. If we succeed, we can help save antibiotics for the future and improve living conditions for people in pharmaceutical production hubs.
RAMP was launched in 2020 and is already starting to have an impact. Companies that join the platform are expected to provide information, including access to their factories, and all partners should contribute to mutual learning and improvements. In turn, this flow of information enables procurement criteria, and verification of foreseeable regulative efforts, giving companies real incentives to shift to sustainable production methods.
The vision is to that emissions of antibiotics from manufacturing should be minimized by 2030.
In 2007, researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, were the first to discover shockingly high levels of antibiotics in rivers downstream from a wastewater treatment plant in India’s pharmaceutical hub, Hyderabad. The concentration of antibiotics in the water was not only the highest ever recorded in the environment; it exceeded what can be found in the blood of patients undergoing treatment.
As the linkages between pharma production and antimicrobial resistance became increasingly clear, countries like Sweden and several UN agencies started to discuss stricter sustainability criteria in the procurement of medicine. In 2016, the UN called for concerted action from governments as well as the industry and the AMR Industry Alliance began to plan for a voluntary standard. SIWI played a leading role through its Reducing Emissions from Antibiotics Production project.
But these pockets of change have not proved sufficient to transform the industry. It is therefore very encouraging to see a new kind of commitments from regulators, procurers and the industry. The EU is discussing environmental criteria for medicine sold on the European market. India has announced plans for the world’s first national targets for emissions of pharmaceutical residues. And more companies seem willing to be transparent about their manufacturing.
These are all encouraging trends and through the Responsible Antibiotics Manufacturing Platform, different stakeholders can join forces to finally make antibiotics production sustainable.
Open tender: Technical Expert
We are looking for a technical expert/firm to provide advice to RAMP, a three-year public private partnership project that seeks to reduce AMR in the environment.Read more and apply
By engaging in the platform, you help develop a higher standards for production of antibiotics and for information and transparency.
All partners should contribute to mutual learning and improvements. Companies that join the platform are expected to provide information, including access to their factories.
Procurers in the platform are expected to engage in the development of procurement criteria that give companies real incentives to shift to sustainable production methods.
The AMR Industry Alliance is a key technical advisor.