Hume slams medicine waste

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MORE than 8,000 litres of medicine went to waste in Borders pharmacies in the first four months of 2012, writes Kenny Paterson.

While the cost to the health board of uplifting and destroying unused drugs is unknown, Freedom of Information figures show that across Scotland half a million pounds is spent each year on the practice.

In its response to the FoI request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, an NHS Borders spokesperson said it did not record the numbers of prescriptions it removes each year.

The spokesperson added: “NHS Borders’ estates and facilities department uplifts unwanted medicines from community pharmacies on a quarterly basis and these are then incinerated on NHS Borders premises.”

However, at the last uplift in May, a total of 363 bins, each holding 22 litres, and 13 bins holding five litres were destroyed.

In comparison, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde uplifted more than 150,000 litres of unused medicines in 2011/12 at a cost of £120,000.

Across Scotland, 10 of the 14 health boards responded to the FoI submission, with one of the biggest wastes being in NHS Lothian, which saw 44 tonnes of prescriptions not being used in 2011/12.

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesperson Jim Hume, also MSP for the South of Scotland, has called for greater efforts to cut the level of wastage across NHS services, particularly with the squeeze on public spending set to tighten.

Mr Hume said: “Disposing of medicines which are returned unused to pharmacies cost our NHS more than 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.

“More than 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 need 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 their GP if they are unsure about the need for a repeat prescription.”