Decommissioning Desflurane
Insider Insights

Ground-breaking decision: first medicine ever withdrawn due to environmental concerns


The NHS in England has made a significant environmental decision by announcing the decommissioning of desflurane, an anaesthetic gas, due to its high global warming potential—2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide. This move aligns with the NHS’s goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Desflurane’s use will be restricted to exceptional clinical circumstances by early 2024, pushing for a shift towards less harmful anaesthetics like sevoflurane or total intravenous anaesthesia, which have a considerably lower environmental impact.

This decision marks a pivotal step in reducing the carbon footprint of medical practices. Over recent years, usage of desflurane has significantly dropped, from 20% of all anaesthetic gases used in 2018/19 to about 3% in 2022/23. This reduction alone has led to a considerable decrease in carbon emissions, equivalent to removing tens of thousands of cars from the road annually.

This shift underscores a broader trend towards sustainability in healthcare procurement and product development. There’s a growing demand for environmentally sustainable medical products, which means that market access strategies must now consider not only the clinical and economic value of products but also their environmental impact. This could affect market dynamics, with increased opportunities for products that align with sustainability goals and possibly faster phasing out of those that do not.

The decommissioning of desflurane is a clear message that environmental considerations are becoming as crucial as clinical and economic factors in healthcare decision-making. This could set a precedent, influencing global market trends in pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, pushing companies to innovate greener solutions to stay competitive and relevant in a rapidly evolving healthcare landscape.



Stay in the know, subscribe to our newsletter

Be the first to receive exclusive content on the latest from the pharmaceutical and market access sector.