The Faculty of Pharmacy puts focus on Drugs in the environment


In September 2021, Uppsala University will launch the new course Drugs in the Environment, developed in collaboration with the Swedish MPA's Knowledge Center for Drugs in the Environment. The initiative unites a number of leading organisations in order to provide Sweden with long-term tools to meet a rapidly escalating challenge.

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Drugs help us to live longer and healthier lives, but they can also cause great harm: via the wastewater, active substances reaches rivers, lakes and fields. Once in the environment, they affect both plants and animals. Entire ecosystems can be put into imbalance, and now joint efforts are required if we are to achieve the goals set in the UN's Agenda 2030. In September, Uppsala University launches the course Drugs in the Environment, a long-term initiative that unites a selection of Sweden's leading pharmaceutical companies and organisations.

Marmar Nekoro, Assessor at the Swedish Medical Products Agency
Marmar Nekoro, Assessor, Swedish MPA

“We see a need for an education that focuses on the connections between sustainability, drugs and the environment. Today we know that pharmaceuticals, including antimicrobials, can affect various organism such as birds and aquatic organisms. Pharmaceuticals are used in veterinary medicine and their increasing use in food production means that they can also indirectly affect us humans. The Swedish Medical Products Agency has, on behalf of the Government, established the Swedish Knowledge Centre on Pharmaceuticals in the Environment. That our collaboration with stakeholders, including Uppsala University, now results in this course is an important contribution to our mission” says Marmar Nekoro, Assessor at the Swedish Medical Products Agency.

The course Drugs in the environment is part of the Faculty of Pharmacy's ongoing investment in improved drug use in society. In 2020, Sofia Kälvemark Sporrong, Professor of Social pharmacy, and Björn Wettermark, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacist of the Year 2013, were recruited. They have in short time formed a joint teaching group, and are now setting the framework for the course.

“We are facing a very real challenge that is affecting our society to an increasing extent. We must develop policies, methods and tools that will take us in the right direction. And in order to achieve this, we need to increase our knowledge. Here, a freestanding university course is a fantastic tool to gather profession, academia and students in order to utilise and develop the skills required,” says Björn Wettermark.

Among the companies involved in the course is AstraZeneca, whose environmental goals include conducting completely climate-neutral operations by 2025. Today, the company follows a distinct strategy in order to promote biodiversity, giving sustainability consequences major impact in the decision-making processes. A key success factor is access to employees with knowledge of environmental aspects and how these connect to AstraZeneca's products.

“Sustainability is a challenge for all of us", states Helena Wadsten, Sustainability & ZeroCarbon Lead Södertälje. "Both manufacturers, caregivers and patients must take their responsibility. We must give the next generation of experts the tools they need to contribute to a sustainable future and a functioning ecosystem. At the same time, it is up to us as a company to develop and offer the roles and opportunities they need to continue develop their competence in pharmaceuticals and the environment."

course leader Johanna Villén
Johanna Villén, course leader, Faculty of Pharmacy

A number of experts participate in the preparatory work for the course and all organisations represented in the reference group will take an active part in the training, a collaboration that course leader Johanna Villén emphasizes will create broad contact areas between the course participants and their future employers:

“We are primarily aiming at pharmacy- and medical students who are a few terms into their education, and with a mix of guest lectures, workshops and study visits, we want to contribute to sustainable networks between the tomorrows experts and the pharmacy industry, authorities, and Sweden's regions. This is a challenge we will face for many years to come, which is why we work long-term and invest in a holistic approach right from the start!”


  • The course is developed in collaboration with the Swedish Medical Products Agency's Knowledge Center for Drugs in the Environment.
  • The course leaders has formed a reference group with experts from selected organisations to ensure that the course content reflects the entire life cycle of a drug.
  • The reference group includes representatives from Apoteket Hjärtat / Apoteksföreningen, Stockholm Region, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala Antibiotic Center at Uppsala University and AstraZeneca/Lif.

Practical information

  • Language of Instruction: Swedish

Learn more


Johanna Villén, The Faculty of Pharmacy
Course leader, PhD student

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Matton, private

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Last modified: 2022-11-08