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Medicine Waste Campaign

Monday, 14 January 2013
Wasted medication is costing the NHS millions every year – including £4million for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, local health chiefs have revealed...
The potential money wasted on unused or partially used medicines could pay for
  • 157 more nurses, or..
  • 4,000 more drug treatment courses for Alzheimers, or..
  • 261 more drug treatment courses for breast cancer, or ..
  • 1,079 more hip replacements, or ..
  • 4,162 more cataract operations
A campaign was launched on 14th January for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University, Hywel Dda, Aneurin Bevan and Cardiff and Vale University Health Boards.
The campaign asks patients to:
  • Only order what they need
  • Return their unwanted medicines to their pharmacy for safe disposal
  • Take their medicines with them when they go into hospital
GPs and pharmacists across the region 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 individual’s homes, across the UK, at any one time. 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
  • 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. In addition to this a high profile advertising campaign on local buses across the region. Further information may also be found on the national website www.medicinewaste.com
Jonathan Simms, Clinical Director of Pharmacy at Aneurin Bevan Health Board, said, “This campaign gives us a real opportunity to highlight the problem of wasted medicines and the associated cost to the NHS.  Whether we are a patient or a healthcare professional involved in prescribing, dispensing or reviewing medicines, we can all play our part to make sure that patients get the benefit from taking their medicines without ordering medicines that may not be taken or are not currently needed. 
“Unwanted medicines in the home may mean that patients are not getting the benefit they could from their medicines. It also represents a large amount of waste. We want patients on repeat prescriptions to think about what they are oprdering and only ask for what they need and are running out of. Any of the medicines can be dispensed when needed at a later date, as once medicines have been dispensed they cannot be recycled."    
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.
The campaign will encourage patients to have regular reviews of their medicines and to discuss any issues they may have with 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.