Clean water is essential to life. This is why we make significant efforts to ensure that our wastewater effluents do not negatively impact the quality of water available for others.
Along with all industries, we are wrestling with ways to protect the quality and availability of water, especially in areas of scarcity. For our industry in particular, there is increasing attention and research focused on the effects of pharmaceuticals in the environment through patient use.
We have corporate standards and guidelines in place to ensure that our facilities meet or exceed local requirements regarding the treatment and management of wastewater effluents. We measure parameters that are widely accepted globally as contributing to water quality degradation, either in the form of depleted oxygen levels (total suspended solids and chemical oxygen demand) or toxicity to human and aquatic life (nitrates), to determine discharge of general pollutants.
As of 2010, we discontinued central collection of wastewater effluent data and destination of water discharge is not reported; however the data continues to be monitored site by site. Previously, we also measured off-site releases of priority reduction chemicals to water, but these were found to be below measurable levels.
Bristol Myers Squibb's company position on pharmaceuticals in the environment
Bristol Myers Squibb is committed to protecting the health and safety of our employees, contractors, customers, the public and the environment by conducting business in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.
Through our collaboration with industry partners, academic researchers, regulatory and environmental agencies, and our participation in initiatives led by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and other trade associations, we work to further understand and proactively address the potential impacts on the environment and human health due to manufacturing, distributing, using and disposing of our products.
Improved analytical methods make it possible to detect trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in surface waters at extremely low levels (concentrations in the parts per billion or parts per trillion range). Studies conducted to date indicate it is highly unlikely the quantities of pharmaceuticals detected in the environment would be harmful to human health. Scientific knowledge of the potential long term effects on the aquatic environment continues to develop and we are tracking research in this area.
The primary mechanism for trace amounts of pharmaceutical compounds to enter the environment is through patient use and excretion of unmetabolized materials. To a lesser extent, unused medicines also can enter the environment after being discarded by consumers. Very low levels of pharmaceuticals may pass through wastewater treatment plants and ultimately be discharged into the environment.
Bristol Myers Squibb has taken a number of actions/activities to (a) reduce potential concentrations of pharmaceuticals in the environment and (b) to further scientific knowledge in this area, including:
- During new drug development and the regulatory approval process, we collect an extensive amount of ecotoxicological information about our compounds to support environmental assessments required as part of a New Drug Application (NDA). Before marketing a new compound, we must ensure that our compounds are safe for human use and will not negatively impact the environment. Very few chemical entities are more broadly studied prior to widespread human use or application than pharmaceutical compounds. Our industry works closely with regulatory and environmental agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey to ensure the potential impact of pharmaceuticals on the aquatic environment and on human health are understood and minimized.
- We design clean and efficient pharmaceutical manufacturing processes that do not have an adverse impact on the environment. Additionally, the wastewater from Bristol Myers Squibb’s manufacturing facilities undergoes a high degree of treatment before being discharged to the environment. This treatment is provided by company owned and operated on-site infrastructure or off-site municipal wastewater treatment systems, or a combination of both.
- Bristol Myers Squibb and other members of PhRMA are committed to furthering the scientific research in order to achieve a better understanding of this issue. Work conducted to date has included scientific data collection, development of analytical tools and models, and publication of research papers. This effort will continue within and among the pharmaceutical industry, academia, government laboratories and other scientific organizations.
Bristol Myers Squibb supports and encourages patients to learn how to safely dispose of unused or expired medications and minimize potential effects on the environment through organizations such as PhRMA.