What do you do with your unused prescription medicines? Leave them in your bathroom cabinet? Take them back to your local pharmacist? Throw them in the bin?
Every year in Somerset we throw away £3 million worth of prescription medicines; often the medicines are either unwanted or unused and because of safety rules, any medicines returned to the pharmacist simply end up being incinerated.
Across the UK wasted medicines costs the tax payer a whopping £300 million each year; money that could have been spent on NHS patient care or treatment.
GPs in Somerset are asking patients and carers to support their latest medicines waste campaign and do more to take their medicines correctly and save themselves and the NHS money. Campaign posters and leaflets will also be appearing in all Somerset GP surgeries, pharmacies and local hospitals.
Pharmacists are experts in the use of medicines and can advise people on how to take them and get the most benefit from them and community pharmacists can offer advice without an appointment.
Joanne Ayre, the waste medicines lead for Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) explained: "We really want to make an impact in reducing the amount of unused medicines we waste. The public need to understand that they have a role to play in avoiding waste and saving precious NHS resources and this can start with a conversation with their community pharmacist about their medicines.
“GPs and pharmacies will be reviewing patient’s repeat prescriptions in order to ensure that any changes in a patient’s prescription are implemented quickly. For example, medicines that have been stopped are removed from repeat prescription lists. GPs want to guarantee that only medicines that are actually needed are given to their patients, thereby avoiding the automatic repeat of all items on the list.
“GPs know that some patients do like to stock their medicines ‘just in case’, but patients are advised to only have a maximum of one months’ supply at home. Doctors really want patients to order only those medicines that they need and avoid stockpiling where possible. If any patient is unsure about their medicines they should talk to their doctor, pharmacist or practice nurse.”
Top tips for reducing medicines waste
As the most frequently visited healthcare professionals, community pharmacy teams are already working hard to help people to understand and get the most benefit out of their medicines, as well as helping them to think about whether they need to keep ordering repeat prescriptions.
- Only order what you need - check your cupboards first and never stockpile medicines as this can be dangerous.
- Take your medicines exactly as your doctor advises.
- Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not taking any of your medicines for any reason. They will be glad you told them.
- Check your medicines bag before leaving the pharmacy and tell the pharmacist if there is anything you don’t need. Medicines can be reused if they have not left the pharmacy,but once they have left they have to be destroyed.
- If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Return unused medicines to your pharmacy so they can be disposed of safely.
- Never flush medicines down the toilet or tip them down the sink as this harms the environment.
- Services such as ‘Medicines Use Reviews’ and the ‘New Medicine Service’ are specifically designed to help people to better understand and take their medicines Ask your local community pharmacy if you might be eligible for one of these services.
For more information about your prescription medicines visit the NHS Choices web site at: