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30 October 2019 08:44

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greenhouse gas

Switching to 'green' inhalers could reduce carbon footprint by 37-fold

The NHS has been urged to replace metered-dose inhalers, after researchers found they had a carbon footprint 37 times that of dry powdered ones. They say replacing one in 10 metred dose inhalers with the least expensive brands of dry powder equivalents could reduce drug costs by £8.2million annually. Dr Wilkinson, consultant in respiratory medicine from East and North Hertfordshire Trust, said: 'Any move towards "greener" inhalers would need to ensure that replacements were cost effective. People can also make sure they are using their inhalers correctly, return finished ones to pharmacies for proper disposal and avoid throwing away half-full items to help reduce the carbon footprint of their medication, he said. Switching to "green" inhalers for conditions such as asthma could cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce drug costs, a study suggests.

carbon footprint

But swapping out metered-dose inhalers for the cheapest equivalent dry powder inhaler could cut millions off the NHS drugs bill and significantly reduce carbon emissions, the research published in the journal BMJ Open said. The study found the carbon footprints of metered-dose inhalers were between 10 and 37 times those of dry powder inhalers. At these prescription rates, replacing one in 10 metered-dose inhalers with the least expensive brands of dry powder equivalents could reduce drug costs by £8.2 million annually. And it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 58,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, roughly the same as 180,000 return car journeys from London to Edinburgh, the researchers said. On an individual level, replacing each metered-dose inhaler with a dry powder equivalent would save between 150kg and 400kg a year, they said.

asthma

Dr Alexander Wilkinson, consultant in respiratory medicine from East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, said: "Any move towards 'greener' inhalers would need to ensure that replacements were cost effective. "By switching to less expensive brands, we've shown that it would still be possible to make a positive impact on carbon emissions while at the same time reducing drug costs. But patients should review conditions and treatments at least annually with healthcare professionals – and could discuss whether environmentally friendly inhalers are available and appropriate for them to use, the researchers said. Dr James Smith, from the University of Cambridge, said: "Our study shows that switching to inhalers which are better for the environment could help individuals, and the NHS as a whole, reduce their impact on the climate significantly. A study from researchers at the University of Cambridge has found that switching to alternative, greener inhalers would not only result in large carbon savings, but could be achieved alongside reduced drug costs by using less expensive brands.

free battle

While HFAs are not damaging to the ozone layer, they are still potent greenhouse gases, and currently metered-dose inhalers contribute an estimated 3.9% of the carbon footprint of the National Health Service in the UK. The team found that the carbon footprints of metered-dose inhalers were between 10-37 times those of dry powder inhalers. At 2017 prescription levels, replacing one in ten metered-dose inhalers in England with the cheapest equivalent dry powder inhalers could lead to a reduction in drug costs of £8.2million annually and would reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 58kilotonnes, roughly the same as would arise from 180,000 return car journeys from London to Edinburgh. At the individual level each metered-dose inhaler replaced by a dry powder inhaler could save the equivalent of between 150 and 400kg of CO2 annually, which is similar to many actions that environmentally-concerned individuals are taking at home already such as installing wall insulation at home, recycling, or cutting out meat. "Any move towards 'greener' inhalers would need to ensure that replacements were cost effective," said Dr. Alexander Wilkinson, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine from East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. "By switching to less expensive brands, we've shown that it would still be possible to make a positive impact on carbon emissions while at the same time reducing drug costs.