Campaign to combat medicine waste in Wales

By Jonathan Simms, Clinical Director of Pharmacy, Aneurin Bevan Health Board

Aneurin Bevan Health Board launched a campaign at the end of January this year as part of an initiative to raise awareness of medicine waste, how medicines are wasted and the part that patients and the public can play in helping to reduce this waste.

Medicines play an important part in promoting well-being, preventing ill-health and managing disease.  However, few of us think about the medicines that we waste, how they are disposed of, or how much they cost.

Money is wasted every day through patients receiving medicines they do not really need and which may not be required.  This money could be used to fund other vital health services and to fund medicines that are needed by local patients.

We have asked patients to:

•    think about whether they actually need a further supply of medicines or if they have enough at home.
•    tell their GP or Pharmacist if they have stopped taking any medicines on their repeat list, so that they can be removed.  If they need the medicine in the future, they can request it again.
•    ask their GP for a medicine review if they are not sure.

We are also raising awareness of the fact that patients do not have to order everything on their repeat prescription every time if they already have enough at home and how to dispose of their medication safely.

Patients sometimes order and receive medicines with no intention of using them saying they are too afraid of “upsetting the doctor” to stop receiving them.  For example – an elderly gentleman was receiving Viagra 50mg every month, only because he was too embarrassed to say that he didn’t need it or use it any more.  When he brought them back to the pharmacy, the pharmacist couldn’t even bring herself to calculate the cost of how much medicine had been wasted – there were more than 30 boxes!

One of our pharmacists in the Health Board told us:  “When one of our patients passed away, their family members asked if we could dispose of the medication they had left over – we of course said yes, and they proceeded to go to their car and carry out three black bags full to bursting.  The medication involved included inhalers, nebulisers, creams as well as tablets and capsules – I wouldn’t even like to guess at the cost.”

The most expensive medicine is the one that is never used! So please don’t stockpile medicines – only order what you need when you need it.