Wasted medication is costing the NHS millions every year – including £20million for the NHS across South Central England – local health chiefs have revealed.
This potential money wasted on unused or partially used medicines could pay for:
• 785 more nurses, OR
• 20,000 more treatment courses for Alzheimer’s, OR
• 1,319 more treatment courses for breast cancer, OR
• 5,393 more hip replacements, OR
• 20,811 more cataract operations
A campaign aimed at reducing unnecessary waste launches today across the eight Primary Care Trust areas which comprise the NHS South Central Strategic Health Authority. The campaign asks patients to;
• Only order what they need;
• Return their unwanted medicines to their pharmacy for safe disposal and;
• Take their medicines with them when they go into hospital.
GPs and pharmacists across the Isle of Wight have joined together in a bid to inform patients about their treatment and to help patients understand more about their medicines and the options they have.
One of the main concerns is repeat prescriptions, which are ordered and collected by patients but then not used. It is estimated that £90 million worth of unused prescription medicines are retained in individuals’ homes, across the UK, at any one time1. Around half of all do not take or use their medicines as prescribed . This can occur for a number of reasons, including:
• patients not believing the medicine is necessary;
• possible side effects;
• fitting taking or using medicines into daily routines;
• choosing between medicines if patients’ feel they are taking too many, and;
• cutting down or stopping medicines they have been taking for a long time.
Posters and leaflets will be displayed in pharmacies and GP practices to raise awareness of medicine waste among both patients and carers. Further information may also be found on the national website www.medicinewaste.com
Dr John Rivers, Chair of the Clinical Commissioning Group for the Isle of Wight said: “Everyone involved in prescribing, dispensing or reviewing medicines needs to make sure that patients are involved in making decisions about their treatment and that all medicines are taken as recommended.
Unused drugs in the home may mean that patients are not getting the benefit they could be from their medicines. It also represents a large amount of waste. Patients on repeat prescriptions should think carefully when they are ordering and only ask for what they need when they are running out . Any other medicines can be dispensed when needed at a later date. Once medicines have been dispensed, they cannot be recycled.
Patients should not hesitate to ask their GP or Pharmacist if they are unsure why they are taking a certain medicine and whether they need to continue taking it”
The latest report from the Department of Health (Nov 23rd 2010) cited Medicine Usage Reviews as a potential way to reduce waste. In 2011, NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) issued new guidelines to healthcare professionals on how to involve patients in making decisions about prescribed medicines and reduce the number of people not taking or using their medicines correctly.
Jim Siddy, of Siddys Pharmacy, Newport says: "There are a number of reasons why medicines are going to waste; these include patients ordering medicines that are not required for a variety of reasons. Some of these medicines are very expensive and patients often confuse the prescription price paid as the cost of the medicines they take. This is not the case, with some medicines like inhalers used to treat asthma costing the NHS in excess of £90 per inhaler. Returned medicines cannot be recycled and they are destroyed. It is therefore really important that only medicines that are needed are ordered.”
“People also may be "sitting" on medicines that they are no longer using. The public need to be aware that others may be put at risk if unwanted medicines are left in the home lying around, especially young children. “
"If anyone has any unused medicines at home we're encouraging them to take them back to the pharmacy for safe disposal and have a chat with the pharmacist about their medicines and how to get the most from them."
The campaign will encourage patients to have regular reviews of their medicines and to discuss any issues they may have with taking their medication with their GP or pharmacist.
Anyone with unwanted medicines can return them to their local pharmacy where they will be disposed of safely.