Millions of Pounds Worth of Medicines Destined For The Dustbin

PUBLISHED: 16:28 23 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:46 04 May 2010

MORE than £4million-worth of medicines go unused in Cambridgeshire every year, but pharmacists and healthcare experts say the money could be used to pay for 750 hip replacements, or 500 heart bypasses. Sue Ashwell, chief pharmacist for Cambridgeshire NHS

MORE than £4million-worth of medicines go unused in Cambridgeshire every year, but pharmacists and healthcare experts say the money could be used to pay for 750 hip replacements, or 500 heart bypasses.

Sue Ashwell, chief pharmacist for Cambridgeshire NHS, said the county's bill for medication stood at £80million in 2008, and that around one pound in every £20 was being wasted by patients "not asking themselves what they really needed."

"All we are asking people to do is take a couple of minutes to look in the back of the cupboard before going to the pharmacy and then tick only the relevant box on any repeat prescription," she added.

Higher prescription charges were introduced by the Labour government in 2008 - but Cambridgeshire NHS figures show that between 80 and 90 per cent of items are exempt from the £7.10 charge, leaving the bill for the majority of unused drugs firmly at the local NHS' door.

"We will take back old medicines but for safety reasons they have to be destroyed - it is better not to have them in the first place," Mrs Ashwell said.

"GPs are happy to help, as are pharmacists. Rather than being re-prescribed a medicine that is making you feel queasy, or having second thoughts after a consultation - medical professionals are right behind us and will take the time to talk through choices with patients.

"What we are asking people to do amounts to little more than basic housekeeping, but if we can just nibble at the corners, then we stand to save a lot of money - money which could be reinvested elsewhere."

Pharmacists and GPs across the county have agreed to help combat the problem and will be displaying advice posters as the NHS' campaign runs in February.

nEvery Cambridgeshire pharmacy or dispensing GP surgery accepts unused or unwanted drugs for safe destruction.

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