Environmental Sustainability Assessments of Pharmaceuticals: An Emerging Need for Simplification in Life Cycle Assessments

The pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries are eager to strive toward innovative products and technologies. This study first derives hotspots in resource consumption of 2839 Basic Operations in 40 Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient synthesis steps through Exergetic Life Cycle Assessment (ELCA). Second, since companies are increasingly obliged to quantify the environmental sustainability of their products, two alternative ways of simplifying (E)­LCA are discussed. The usage of averaged product group values (<i>R</i><sup>2</sup> = 3.40 × 10<sup>–30</sup>) is compared with multiple linear regression models (<i>R</i><sup>2</sup> = 8.66 × 10<sup>–01</sup>) in order to estimate resource consumption of synthesis steps. An optimal set of predictor variables is postulated to balance model complexity and embedded information with usability and capability of merging models with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) data systems. The amount of organic solvents used, molar efficiency, and duration of a synthesis step were shown to be the most significant predictor variables. Including additional predictor variables did not contribute to the predictive power and eventually weakens the model interpretation. Ideally, an organization should be able to derive its environmental impact from readily available ERP data, linking supply chains back to the cradle of resource extraction, excluding the need for an approximation with product group averages.