The Primary Care Respiratory Society (PCRS) is calling on all inhaler suppliers to publish the carbon impact of their devices and commit to a rapid transition to low carbon propellants from 2025 onwards.

In a white paper published today (18 November), the society said ‘better processes and information’ on how and where to recycle, safely dispose and return inhalers are also needed to help ‘reduce landfill, wasted medication and release of harmful propellants and gases’.

The white paper outlined several ways healthcare bodies and manufacturers can help patients with lung conditions by reducing the environmental impact of respiratory healthcare.

This included the role community pharmacies can play in educating and monitoring patients who use inhalers.

‘Community pharmacists are ideally placed to check support patients to manage their condition in terms of recognising triggers, checking patient inhaler technique, providing education on the importance of preventing medication use and monitoring the number and frequency of reliever inhalers used,’ the report said.

Figures published by the British Lung Foundation show the NHS prescribes more than 65 million inhalers every year, much more than other European countries.

‘Detrimental impact’

The PCRS report also considers how poor air quality can exacerbate respiratory conditions and pointed to estimates made by Public Health England in 2019, which suggested between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in the UK can be attributable to human-made air pollution.

Carol Stonham, executive chair of PCRS, said that ‘everyone has a right to breath clean air, to live life well and without the fear and worry of the effect of air pollution on their doorstep’.

She added: ‘Increasingly we are all re-evaluating our carbon footprint, reducing waste, recycling where we can, using less plastic and trying to use our cars less – but we all need to do more and that includes the healthcare sectors.

‘We are acutely aware of the detrimental impact of air pollution on patients with COPD but also acutely aware of the role healthcare plays in contributing to emissions. It’s a big ask but there are actions that we can take at a personal, professional and system-wide level to start to address what might look like an enormous task.’