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Novo Nordisk to hit 700k injection pen recycling target as it eyes expansion

Novo Nordisk’s ‘PenCycle’ scheme is on track to recycle up to 700,000 pre-filled plastic injection pen devices by the end of the year, amid plans to expand the initiative further, the company has told C+D.

It follows a successful pilot of the PenCycle recycling scheme, which first launched in November 2021 across 14 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to recycle Novo Nordisk’s pre-filled plastic injection pens, FlexPen® and FlexTouch®, used by patients with diabetes or obesity.

While the scheme expanded nationwide in August 2022, Novo Nordisk estimates that more than 12,000 pens were recycled across Greater Manchester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and Greater Glasgow and Clyde during the pilot, Jarle Rud, a supply chain project manager at Novo Nordisk UK, told C+D last week (November 25).

Read more: Pharmacies across 14 CCGs to join free pre-filled injection pen recycling pilot

There are further plans to expand the scope of the pilot to independent and hospital pharmacies, he revealed.

Some 26,000 pens have now been recycled since the pilot began, “and I can see that momentum building”, he added.

Novo Nordisk’s target “is that we will recycle around 700,000 by the end of 2022”, Mr Rud said.


Aims for the scheme


In line with NHS England’s ambition to become the world’s first net zero national health service by 2045, the PenCycle scheme sits under Novo Nordisk’s ‘Circular for Zero’ strategy, which commits to net zero emissions across its entire value chain by 2045, Mr Rud told C+D.

Currently, up to 23 million medical pens are sent to incinerators or landfill every year in the UK.

“By tackling two of our devices, it means that two thirds of our annual plastic responsibility can be tackled,” he added.

Read more: Meet the pharmacies striving for a more environmentally friendly, greener sector

At the moment, 2,800 pharmacies across the UK are signed up to the scheme.

The aim is to hit 3,500 by the end of 2022, Mr Rud confirmed.

In August, following the expansion of the pilot, Boots became the first community pharmacy chain to roll out a pre-filled plastic injection pen recycling scheme across all its branches.

Lloydspharmacy, Well and Rowlands – whose branches were also involved in the pilot scheme – remain “in positive dialogue” with Novo Nordisk, he added.

“In parallel we are working with Alliance Healthcare to onboard independents,” he said.


Pilot onboarding “over ambitious”


Upon the pilot’s launch, Novo Nordisk revealed it expected 1.1 million pre-filled plastic injection pen devices to have been recycled by the end of 2022. It saw potential to recycle over three million devices in 2023, preventing over 56 tonnes of plastic waste.

But Novo Nordisk was “over ambitious in return rates”, Mr Rud admitted.

High workloads and workforce issues faced by community pharmacy teams involved in the pilot scheme “probably meant that we were slower in the onboarding of community pharmacies” he told C+D.


Expansion plans


While community pharmacy remains “a preferred place to return pens”, Mr Rud also told C+D, Novo Nordisk has since received “a lot of requests” from hospital diabetes clinics who want to get involved in the scheme, offering “potential”, he revealed.

“Really PenCycle is set up to try and create the foundation for an industry solution,” he added.

But the company also aims to “shift from a routine and a habit of using plastic device onto durable devices”, Mr Rud acknowledged.

Novo Nordisk’s durable pens with replaceable insulin cartridges have “a far better environmental footprint”, offering “better outcomes”.


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