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Tuesday 19th June 2018

Unused prescriptions cost NHS £300m

25th November 2010

A study commissioned by the Department of Health has revealed that unused prescription medicines cost the NHS at least £300 million a year.


And the DH suggests that some 50% of the waste associated with drugs that are prescribed but never taken by the patient is preventable.

There are also concerns that the gross annual cost of NHS primary care waste and that occurring in care homes is £300 million in England could be an underestimate.

The study said: “This sum represents approximately £1 in every £25 spent on primary care and community pharmaceutical and allied products use, and 0.3% of total NHS outlays.

“It includes an estimated £90 million worth of unused prescription medicines that are retained in individuals’ homes at any one time, £110 million returned to community pharmacies over the course of a year, and £50 million worth of NHS supplied medicines that are disposed of unused by care homes.”

The report highlighted a number of reasons for the waste, including over-ordering on prescriptions, patients getting better before all the medicine is taken, people suffering unwanted side-effects and the patient dying.

Whilst acknowledging some of the waste was inevitable, it also said some of it was preventable.

The research was carried out by a team from the York Health Economics Consortium and the School of Pharmacy at the University of London.

They suggested that £500 million could be saved in the areas of asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, vascular disease and schizophrenia if medicines were taken “in the most optimal manner.”


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