£500,000 wasted on medicines every year

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have revealed figures which show that medicine wastage costs the NHS over half a million pounds each year – and have warned that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ten out of fourteen health boards responded to the Liberal Democrats Freedom of Information requests which asked specifically about the annual costs of removing and destroying prescription medicines that are returned unused to pharmacies in the area. With 44 tonnes of wasted prescriptions being returned NHS Lothian pharmacies in 2011-12 alone, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Jim Hume MSP has called for everyone to do their part to prevent wastage in the NHS.

Commenting on the figures, Mr Hume said:

“Disposing of medicines which are returned unused to pharmacies cost our NHS over half a million pounds last year. But that staggering cost is only the tip of the iceberg.

“Our figures do not show the cost of the medicines that are being wasted, or the costs around prescribing them in the first place. Many people also throw out unused prescriptions rather than return them to the pharmacy.

“Across Scotland colossal amounts of medicines are being wasted. Over 80 tonnes of unused medicines were collected from pharmacies in NHS Lothian and Grampian throughout the last year. The NHS is facing some of its toughest tests yet with an ageing population and in future years the NHS is going to have to do more with less. We must all do our part to ensure that every penny is used effectively and that wastage is reduced where possible.

“NHS staff needs to regularly review the medicines that a patient is on. This is a proactive measure which could cut costs and improve health by ensuring patients are receiving appropriate treatment. Patients can do their part by ensuring that they don’t take out repeat prescriptions and then not use them. This means visiting your GP if you’re unsure about the need for your repeat prescription.

“With taxpayers footing the bill, we should do what we can to reduce it.”