Millions wasted on unused drugs

Nearly �5million of NHS Suffolk's budget is wasted every year on throwing away unused medicines, it can be revealed today.

SUFFOLK: Nearly �5million of NHS Suffolk's budget is wasted every year on throwing away unused medicines, it can be revealed today.

Heaps of drugs are binned because of laws that require them to be destroyed rather than prescribed to other sick people.

Figures released in a Freedom of Information request show that the value of drugs returned unused to pharmacies and GPs is approximately �4.9 million, which is five per cent of NHS Suffolk's total prescribing budget of �98 million.

This could pay for 1,000 NHS hip replacement operations.

The actual sum could be even more as the figures do not take into account drugs thrown away by patients themselves.

Most of the medicine comes from people using repeat prescriptions to re-order drugs they do not need, which have to be destroyed when returned to pharmacies.

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There is also a cost for the Primary Care Trust to use a contractor to collect the drugs from GP practices and pharmacies, and incinerate them, and in Suffolk, this amounts to �208,868 every year.

Last year NHS Suffolk launched a campaign with NHS Norfolk and NHS Cambridgeshire to tackle the issue of wasted medication.

Christine Bower, head of medicines management at NHS Suffolk, said: “Medicines management is everybody's responsibility. We have been working together to find solutions to reduce the waste. It's an important message.

“If we can encourage more people to look in their cupboards to check what drugs they need before ordering repeat prescriptions, it could make a big difference to freeing up money to improve healthcare across Suffolk.”

As part of the campaign, thousands of posters and leaflets were distributed to GP surgeries, pharmacies, libraries and community centres to raise awareness on what people can do to reduce waste. Patients also have regular reviews of their medicines with their pharmacist or prescribing doctor to discuss any issues they may have with their drugs.

Why do people waste medicines? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

IPSWICH: One patient who has an unused box of Tamiflu at home after contracting swine flu earlier this year said: “I was prescribed Tamiflu online after entering my symptoms in the computer and being told it was very likely I had swine flu.

“I was told not to contact my GP, but my wife could collect the drugs. After reading the instructions and details of the side-effects - and reading further about Tamiflu online - I decided not to take the tablets.

“I recovered after about a week and the pills remain unopened in our medicine cabinet. They would be perfectly safe for anyone else with the illness but knowing they would just be incinerated seems an appalling waste.”

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