Cradle-to-gate life cycle inventory and assessment of pharmaceutical compounds

  • Conceptión Jiménez-González
  • Alan D. Curzons
  • David J. C. Constable
  • Virginia L. Cunningham
LCA Case Studies


Background, Goal and Scope

The research presented here represents one part of GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) efforts to identify and improve the life cycle impact profile of pharmaceutical products. The main goal of this work was to identify and analyze the cradle-to-gate environmental impacts in the synthesis of a typical Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API). A cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of a commercial pharmaceutical product is presented as a case study.


Life cycle inventory data were obtained using a modular gate-to-gate methodology developed in partnership with North Carolina State University (NCSU) while the impact assessment was performed utilizing GSK’s sustainability metrics methodology.

Results and Discussion

Major contributors to the environmental footprint of a typical pharmaceutical product were identified. The results of this study indicate that solvent use accounts for a majority of the potential cradle-to-gate impacts associated with the manufacture of the commercial pharmaceutical product under study. If spent solvent is incinerated instead of recovered the life-cycle profile and impacts are considerably increased.


This case study provided GSK with key insights into the life-cycle impacts of pharmaceutical products. It also helped to establish a well-documented approach to using life cycle within GSK and fostered the development of a practical methodology that is applicable to strategic decision making, internal business processes and other processes and tools.


Life cycle assessment (LCA) life cycle inventory (LCI) pharmaceutical compounds pharmaceutical synthesis sustainability metrics sustainable development 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Conceptión Jiménez-González
    • 1
  • Alan D. Curzons
    • 2
  • David J. C. Constable
    • 3
  • Virginia L. Cunningham
    • 3
  1. 1.GSK, CEHSResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.GSK, CEHSSouthdownview WayUK
  3. 3.GSK, CEHSKing of PrussiaUSA

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