References: GHG emissions of package leaflets of pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals and their package leaflets can be found in every household. A future alternative is the digital package leaflet (ePIL). In a comparative study, Fraunhofer IML, together with the IGES Institute, investigated the influence that a digital solution such as an electronically provided package leaflet could have on GHG emissions.

With the support of industry partners, the scientists collected data to outline and analyse the entire life cycle of a package leaflet for the German pharmaceutical market: from the officially approved file to printing and delivery and finally to use via pharmacies or hospitals. Along this chain, the relevant resource consumption was identified and converted into GHG emissions. In concrete figures, this means that an average paper-based package leaflet weighing slightly less than 4 grams causes 7 grams of GHG emissions (CO2e).

On the other hand, a model for a digital solution was also created. The file with the officially approved content is made available digitally and can be retrieved in a database or directly by means of a scan code on the drug package. This comparatively simple technical solution can save up to 90 percent of the GHG emissions of the paper-based solution. In addition, the e-leaflet  alone  or  in combination with existing or adapted paper-based package inserts offers  further advantages, such as  advanced forms of patient information.

The detailed model was used for the development of a calculator and converted into an online tool that enables pharmaceutical companies to calculate the CO2 footprint of paper-based and electronic package leaflets. The study was also published in the journal Pharmaceutical Industry pharmind (see below).

The study was supported by Bundesverband der Arzneimittel-Hersteller e.V. (BAH.), Bundesverband der Pharmazeutischen Industrie e.V. (BPI), Verband Forschender Arzneimittelhersteller e.V. (vfa) and Rote Liste Service GmbH.

We would like to thank the sponsors as well as all the companies that actively supported this research by contributing in detail to the workshop and discussions and who were available for interviews and further discussions.

The following pharmaceutical companies supported by providing real data from their processes (in alphabetic order): AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG, Amgen GmbH, AstraZeneca GmbH, Bayer, Biotest Pharma GmbH, CHEPLAPHARM Arzneimittel GmbH, Dr. FALK PHARMA GMBH, Dr. Pfleger Arzneimittel GmbH, Dr. Willmar Schwabe GmbH & Co. KG, GlaxoSmithKline GmbH & Co. KG, HERMES ARZNEIMITTEL GMBH, MEDICE Arzneimittel Pütter GmbH & Co. KG, Merck Healthcare KGaA, Merz Pharma GmbH & Co. KGaA, mibe GmbH Arzneimittel, MSD Sharp & Dohme GmbH, Norgine GmbH, Novartis Pharma GmbH, Novo Nordisk Pharma GmbH, Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH, Takeda Pharma Vertrieb GmbH & Co. KG and Wörwag Pharma GmbH & Co.KG.

Other six companies also provided real data, but decided not to be named here, regardless of the study or the publication of the results in pharmInd.

Learn more:

Article: Carbon footprint of packaging leaflets_Part 1 - Pharmind

Article: Carbon footprint of packaging leaflets_Part 2 - Pharmind

(e)PIL Carbon Calculator 

Press release

Link to IGES Institute project report (German)

Cross link to project partner IGES 


See also

Main page of the department Sustainability and circular economy