Wasted medicines - no time to waste
Why now is the time we can, and must, tackle wasted medicines.
I am, and have always been, a woman in need of a cause.
In my twenties, my cause was mapping the uncharted territories of the human genome. It was a scientific pursuit. I didn’t think I was needed to turn the avalanche of new knowledge into better healthcare. I thought that would somehow just happen, because it would make such a difference to so many people.
The naivety of youth!
I came to realise translating knowledge into action, no matter how valuable that action could be, is hard work. Formidably hard. It needs commitment, energy, resilience, ingenuity, resources and resourcefulness. And none of these are enough without good timing.
To drive transformational change, the timing must be impeccable.
It took another two decades for me to realise we are not at the mercy of time. We can start the clock, if we can find a compelling cause. A cause that feels urgent, worthy, important, and overlooked.
Wasted medicines is such a cause.
Wasted medicines - hidden in plain sight
Over the past few years I have talked to hundreds of people about the vast quantities of medicines being wasted. Not a single person has challenged me on it. Not a single person has asked me for evidence that it occurs. Because everyone in the medicine supply chain knows it to be true.
And yet it is rarely spoken of, and there is little research or action to address wasted medicines. Perhaps because it feels intractable. Perhaps because it is a systemic failure for which no one feels accountable.
Whatever the reasons for the silence, it presents an opportunity to do something new, to cast light and energy on a pervasive problem that damages people, planet, and business.
A shared concern - everyone hates waste
Tackling complex, endemic problems is difficult, but it can be easier to build support, because such problems rarely polarise opinions. Reducing waste is particularly non-controversial; an antipathy of waste is a universal human trait. Nobody champions wasting precious resources!
Wasted medicines are not due to a single bad actor, or a single part of the supply chain. Everyone could do better, but no one is to blame, and the root causes are often unintended consequences of reasonable policies, as we describe in the Sustainable Medicines eBook.
Although this brings its own set of challenges, it fosters and stimulates cooperation, as we have found with the Sustainable Medicines Partnership.
And if everyone gets behind a simple, compelling vision, magic can happen. Solutions can be found and implemented.
Riding the zeitgeist - the wave of sustainability
Sustainability is no longer a niche concern. Societies are realising we cannot keep consuming and discarding without consequences. And people want and expect healthcare to do it’s part, as we showed in last week’s post.
The zeitgeist is shifting towards responsible consumption and waste reduction. Companies and organisations are under pressure from stakeholders and citizens to do better. Much better.
This provides opportunities to incentivise action. Addressing wasted medicines is not just about being responsible; it’s a strategic decision that can align values and value.
Wasted medicines - a gateway to systemic transformation
Wasted medicines are more than a problem to be solved; they’re a gateway to a more sustainable, resilient, equitable pharmaceutical industry. Focussing on wasted medicines will reveal challenges and opportunities at every stage of the pharmaceutical supply chain from development to disposal.
Over the coming weeks I will delve into these, and if you can’t wait, they are outlined in the Sustainable Medicines eBook.
The most important thing about timing….
Many external factors and forces will affect the success of mission-driven causes, and paying attention to them is important.
But one timing is more important than everything else.
Not starting is the commonest reason for causes not getting anywhere.
The start doesn’t have to be big, or grand, or loud, or expensive. But it has to be something. Something more than a daydream or a dinner table gripe.
If you have read this far I’m guessing some of you have sustainable healthcare ideas you believe are worthy of attention (and intention). Why not start by sharing them in the comments. Or email me - I always love hearing from fellow cause junkies!
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