Pharmacists say there are plenty of reasons patients stockpile drugs
Doctors were urged to alter how they prescribe medicines to forestall £300m of substances being thrown away every year.
Pharmacists say this will likely be easy to do – if doctors offered more tailored, personal advice to patients and stopped prescribing quite a lot of drugs to hide long periods of time.
But doctors say patient demands make it hard to make such changes,
Behind the counter of Ash Son’s pharmacy in south London lie several yellow bags which illustrate the issue.
They contain drugs which have been handed back over a one-month period and are worth thousands of pounds.
“Currently now we have about six bags and two drums,” Mr Son says. “All of it goes to the incinerator; we cannot re-use any of those drugs because we simply have no idea if they have been stored correctly.”
He explains that there are a lot reasons patients can be stockpiling drugs.
Some people change their medicine at the advice of doctors, while others simply prefer to stop taking the pills.
Official advice is to come back unwanted drugs back to the chemists, but Mr Son accepts that many individuals will hang directly to them or just throw them away.
“That stuff we haven’t any idea about, and carries risk because it’s disposed in landfill and might leach into our water supply.”
Mr Son is vice-chair of the English pharmacy board of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and says patients must be more sensible of their attitude to what they wish.
Ash Son and the medication he cannot use
“Have an easier discussion together with your doctor about your medicines,” he says. “We will focus on when patients simply haven’t taken the medicine and they’ve continued to be prescribed, or they’re just not appropriate”.
He also believes doctors should stop prescribing quite a lot of drugs to hide long periods, instead sticking to a regime of standard repeat prescriptions.
Following a central authority report into what quantity of money the NHS wastes on medicines, published in December 2012, the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales was working to lift awareness of the problem with a firm called Medicines Waste UK.
The company’s managing director Jan James said: “This isn’t about apportioning blame to any specific group, it’s about working together in order that we collectively reduce waste.”
NHS England, that’s implementing the government’s action plan for medicines waste, has launched a project working across primary and secondary care inside the south of britain, that is estimated to have saved nearly £3m in its first year.
Pharmacists say there are numerous reasons patients stockpile drugs
NHS England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer, Clare Howard, said there have been “many complex factors” behind the difficulty.
“These include the ways that medicines are developed, doctors’ prescribing habits, the ways that “repeat” medicines are ordered, and naturally patients’ understanding of the significance of taking medicines as prescribed and ensuring they simply order what they wish,” she said.
A campaign was developed to remind patients of 3 key messages: only order the medicines you’d like; take your medicines with you into hospital and remove unwanted medicines safely.
The Royal College of GPs said: “Many patients expect a prescription on the end in their consultation, particularly antibiotics for common colds and infections on the way to recover naturally or respond better to other treatments, and this may make it difficult for GPs to prescribe appropriately.
“Prescribing was designated a clinical priority and we have now already produced a variety of resources, with the Health Protection Agency to support GPs on this area.”