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The Department of Health estimates that unused medicines cost the NHS around £300 million every year, with an estimated £110 million worth of medicine returned to pharmacies and £90 million worth of unused prescriptions being stored in homes.
And that situation doesn’t look like it is changing, with almost a fifth of Brits admitting to wasting their prescriptions. According to Co-op Health, 28% of people don’t finish the course of medication given.
But, perhaps worryingly, 43% of Brits say that waste is incurred before they even get the medication. 27% say that their GP surgery automatically reorders their entire repeat prescription – when much of the medication isn’t needed. On top of this, 16% say their pharmacy does the same. A further 19% admit to having ordered medication when they don’t need it.
As a direct result of this, 18% of us say we have medication languishing in cupboards. Not all people know this, but medication has a ‘use by date’ and over 33% of Brits say they think they have medication in the cupboard which is likely to have expired. 68% of Brits say they don’t like wasting medication – as they feel it is a drain on NHS resources. So, 27% say they keep it for the future ‘just in case’. Taking medication which is beyond its expiry date, or even relying on old prescriptions can have very serious consequences.
But, 17% either bin excess medication or flush it down the toilet. That means chemicals – which could do harm – enter landfill and the water supply.
Perhaps most worrying about this situation is that 27% hold on to extra medication – and don’t feel concerned – because they can dispense it to friends and family. All medication should be dispensed by a trained professional and could cause serious harm to those self-medicating.
So what can be done? Johnny spoke to Dr. Ranj and Rachael Clarke from Co-op Health who are trying to solve the problem: