Wasted medicines come at a cost to everyone

Lindsey Gracey (Pharmacist, Ballykeel Pharmacy) and Bride Harkin (Commissioning lead, Northern Local Commissioning Group, HSCB) show how much wasted medicines are returned to pharmacies in Northern Ireland. Submitted picture.
Lindsey Gracey (Pharmacist, Ballykeel Pharmacy) and Bride Harkin (Commissioning lead, Northern Local Commissioning Group, HSCB) show how much wasted medicines are returned to pharmacies in Northern Ireland. Submitted picture.

Lindsey Gracey (Pharmacist, Ballykeel Pharmacy) and Bride Harkin (Commissioning lead, Northern Local Commissioning Group, HSCB) show how much wasted medicines are returned to pharmacies in Northern Ireland. Every year, 39 million prescription items are issued in Northern Ireland. About 72 tonnes of these medicines, with an estimated value of £6.46m, are returned to community pharmacies as waste. These medicines then cost the Health Service a further £400,000 to dispose of.

Lindsey said, “Medicines often have a short shelf life and for safety reasons, unused medicines which are returned to pharmacies have to be destroyed. They cannot be reused. It is very important that prescribed medicines are taken as directed by the prescriber. If a patient cannot take their medicine, they should talk to their GP or pharmacist.

Chairman of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), Dr Ian Clements said, “Over-ordering and over-prescribing of medicines leads to an estimated £18m* of wasted medicines each year. If we - patients, members of the public and professionals, all worked together and tried to reduce the amount of wasted medicines, the money saved could be used to fund other vital health services such as more doctors and nurses, or new treatments.”

The campaign will encourage people to only order medicines which they need, review their existing prescriptions with their doctors or pharmacists and not to stockpile medication.