GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has unveiled a groundbreaking propellant technology for inhaler devices, aimed at significantly reducing their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Surprisingly, these emissions account for nearly half (49%) of the company’s current carbon footprint. According to a press release by the company the technology is poised to enter phase 3 testing in GSK’s prominent asthma product, Ventolin (salbutamol), next year. GSK anticipates that this innovation has the potential to slash greenhouse gas emissions from the inhaler by approximately 90%.
Pressurized metered dose inhalers (pMDI) used for delivering drugs related to respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), presently rely on hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) propellants. Introduced in the early 2000s to replace ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), HFCs, however, are potent greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
GSK, a major player in the respiratory medicines market, with such drugs constituting nearly a quarter of its turnover in 2023, is taking a significant step to address the environmental impact of inhalers. Ventolin, its most prescribed product used by approximately 35 million asthma patients globally, is poised to become a low-carbon alternative. Inhalers, in general, have been identified as substantial contributors to the carbon footprint of healthcare systems.
GSK’s CEO, Emma Walmsley, emphasized the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. She stated that as countries strive to decarbonize their health systems, companies, including GSK, play a pivotal role in mitigating carbon emissions. The low-carbon Ventolin is the outcome of several years of development and has undergone testing for device compatibility and patient safety. The commencement of phase 3 trials is scheduled for the first half of the next year, using devices manufactured at GSK’s facility in Evreux, France.
If successful, the innovation could lead to regulatory submissions in 2025, contributing positively to the health of asthma and COPD patients while making a significant impact on the company’s journey toward a more environmentally sustainable future.
GSK has set ambitious sustainability targets, pledging to achieve 100% renewable energy use across the company by 2025 and an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, ultimately aiming for net zero across its entire supply chain, including purchased goods and services, by 2045. This comprehensive target envisions a 90% reduction in emissions, with the remaining 10% offset through carbon credits.
The broader public sentiment on environmental responsibility in the pharmaceutical industry was highlighted in a recent survey involving over 1,300 respondents from the US, UK, France, and Australia. The results indicated strong support for pharmaceutical manufacturers to disclose the carbon footprint of their medicines, reflecting an increasing scrutiny of the environmental practices of major corporations.