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£9m wasted on unused medication

PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 August 2010 | UPDATED: 09:48 16 September 2010

Health bosses have urged patients not to waste their medication.

Health bosses have urged patients not to waste their medication.

Sarah Hall

Health bosses across Norfolk and Suffolk are urging patients not to waste their medication as it was revealed the cost of unwanted medicine amounts to more than £9m a year.

Health bosses across Norfolk and Suffolk are urging patients not to waste their medication as it was revealed the cost of unwanted medicine amounts to more than £9m a year.

Thousands of people are still using repeat prescriptions to re-order medication they never use and, as health trusts continue to struggle in a harsh financial climate, they are being asked to only order what they need.

NHS Norfolk has a total medicines budget of about £118m per year but more than £5m of this is wasted - this is equivalent to patients throwing away about £1 in every £23 that is spent on prescribed medicines.

And wasted medication costs NHS Suffolk more than £4m each year and nationally it is estimated that this figure may be more than £90m.

The £9m worth of wasted medication could pay for other vital health services, including 2,000 more hip replacements, 1,400 more heart by-pass operations or 300 community nurses.

Richard Hodgson, NHS Suffolk senior pharmacist, said: “It's important people get medication if they need it. We have a large number of medications that are wasted or have to be returned and destroyed. Patients can help by only asking for the medicines they need and are running out of when they order a repeat prescription.

“We know patients stock pile their medicines at home so it's important they go through their cupboards and check whether they really need to re-order medicines on a repeat prescription. And if you don't need the medicine now - there is no need to order it as you can easily order it later.”

Patients are also being asked to check their cupboards for out-of-date medicines they have not used and return them to their local community pharmacy or GP dispensary.

Ian Small, deputy head of prescribing and medicines management at NHS Norfolk, said: “Out-of-date prescription drugs should not be taken as their effectiveness will have diminished over time, and they will no longer provide effective treatment for the condition for which they were intended.”

Medicines which tend to be wasted more often are preventative medicines, such as those for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and asthma inhalers. Painkillers and drugs for depression are also often thrown away.


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