General Practice Content Commons

Medicines Waste: Only Order What You Need

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What’s the problem?

A report by 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, £90 million worth of unused prescriptions being stored in homes and £50 million worth of medicines disposed of by Care Homes.

These startling figures don’t even take into account the cost to patients’ health if medicines are not being correctly taken. If medicine is left unused, this could lead to worsening symptoms and extra treatments that could have been avoided.

Why are medicines wasted?

Sometimes patients receive medicines they don’t actually use, or use only occasionally. This means that they can lose out on the intended health benefits of their prescription. The reasons why patients don’t take all their medication can vary and audits have shown that around half of all the medication returned had not even been opened. This means that patients are ordering and receiving medication that they don’t even start to use.

By reducing the amount of medicines being wasted each year, we could increase the available funding for other desperately needed health services.

Let your GP or pharmacist know

  • if you have difficulty taking your medicines
  • if you have stopped taking any medicines

Tell your GP if, after taking your medicine

  • you are not feeling better
  • you are suffering side-effects
  • you don’t believe the medicine is right for you

Your pharmacist will be able to explain:

  • what your medicine is for
  • why you need to take it
  • how to take your medicine
  • confirm it is the right medicine, if it looks different

Non-urgent advice:

Check which items you already have several weeks supply of, BEFORE ordering your repeat prescription