Embedding Sustainability in Drug Delivery through Industry Consensus at CPHI NA

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At CPHI NA, Rachel Harris, AstraZeneca, spoke on her work at BioPhorum to enable industry consensus and action for sustainability with drug delivery devices.

At CPHI North America, Pharmaceutical Technology® sat in on a panel by Rachel Harris, product engineer, AstraZeneca, on enabling industry consensus and action for sustainability with drug delivery devices (1). Harris spoke specifically on her work with BioPhorum, which is a member-lead collaborative company made up of industry leaders and experts with the aim of accelerating progress in the pharmaceutical field through connection and collaboration. One of the company’s biggest objectives is cultivating greater sustainability within the industry through supporting an industry-wide transition to a low carbon future.

Harris said that there are three main areas where the BioPhorum team is focused on driving positive change: access to healthcare, environmental protection, and ethics and transparency. To improve public access to healthcare, Harris underlined the need for promoting prevention of disease, increasing access to life-changing treatments, and strengthening the resilience and sustainability of healthcare systems. To mitigate environmental impact, BioPhorum is focused on expediting the delivery of net-zero healthcare and investing in nature and biodiversity. Harris also emphasized the need to manage the environmental impact of the industry, where companies take a proactive approach in recording and reducing their own waste. Finally, Harris spoke on the importance of ethical and transparent action across the industry, in a way that is safe and inclusive.

The climate crisis is recognized as one of the greatest threats to global health, Harris said, and the health sector is responsible to 4–5% of total global emissions. Because the biopharmaceutical industry exists to advance human health, it’s natural for the industry to be concerned about environmental impact. BioPhorum’s current focus is on the drug delivery devices market, which is rapidly growing and presents an opportunity to separate impact from growth. Harris stated that because the industry operates in a complex global value chain, collaboration is critical to a successful sustainability practice.


As investors, customers, and employees demand more impactful sustainability performance, there are opportunities across the drug delivery field to reduce environmental impact. From engineers, who can design devices and packaging that create less waste, to regional/global leads, who are at the front of corporate environmental programs, there is a role for everyone to play. To illustrate this, Harris outlined the stages in the life cycle of a drug delivery product, and what opportunities for impact reduction exist in each stage.

The development and manufacturing of a product, or the beginning of the device life cycle, impacts all other stages. It’s crucial to think about sustainability, according to Harris, from the very beginning of the cycle, where the device can be designed with reuse or recyclability at end-of-life in mind. An important step is to minimize the complexity of materials, and to embed sustainability practices into the manufacturing process. In the middle stage of a product’s life cycle, during distribution, key practices include optimizing packaging and distribution networks, collecting data on the impact of the process, and decreasing waste by reusing components. At the end of a product’s life, collaborative programs can be created around the recovery and disposal of devices and materials.

BioPhorum’s first deliverable, an industry consensus paper, is due for publication in the second quarter of 2024. The paper details industry consensus on the challenges and opportunities in decarbonizing the value chain and incorporating circularity of materials in drug delivery devices. Moving forward, Harris said that it will be important to standardize assessments across the industry. Companies should understand and interact with regulatory systems, utilize tools for measuring impact, and lean toward new materials and technology that are more sustainable. According to Harris, through collaborative efforts and keeping sustainability in mind, the industry can move towards a greener future.


  1. Harris, R. Enabling Industry Consensus and Action for Sustainable Drug Delivery Devices. Presentation at the 2024 CPHI North America Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, May 7, 2024.