Apparently over half of people would be happy to re-use prescription medicines returned by other patients, as long as they were safe. Is this the way to cut the amount of wasted NHS medication?
A recent survey by IPOS Mori found that 52% of people polled would be likely to accept re-issued medicines. Only 32% said they wouldn’t be happy to.
Previously re-issuing unused medicines hadn’t been considered due to the perception that patients wouldn’t agree with it. But with an estimated £300m lost due to wasted medication every year, the NHS needs to look at other options.
Being prescribed someone’s leftover medicine
I certainly wouldn’t dismiss re-issued medicines out of hand. But I would want to be 100% sure they were safe. And safety is more complex to ensure than you might think. It’s not just a case of saying that an unopened, in-date box is safe.
Temperature can change how some medicines work, so if they’ve been stored above the oven or near a radiator they might look fine, but they may no longer work properly. So there would need to be a way of identifying that a person’s medicines have been stored correctly.
Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC prescribing subcommittee, says that the ‘amount of safety mechanisms needed for this would simply not be worth it for most low-cost medicines’.
Tackling wasted medication
So if re-issuing medicines won’t be cost-effective, what else can the NHS do to stop people from wasting their prescriptions?
Medicines remain unused for a number of reasons. Perhaps someone’s forgotten to stop a repeat prescription for a medication they no longer need. Or maybe it’s the result of a change of medication just after a repeat prescription has been collected. Or, sadly, perhaps someone has gone into hospital or died shortly after their prescription was delivered.
One way to stop medicine wastage could be a requirement to visit your doctor every time your prescription needs renewing. Then again, that would probably be a waste of time and resources greater than the cost of all those wasted medicines. Plus, I know I wouldn’t want to do that for my regular repeat prescription, which my pharmacist automatically collects.
What about increasing the price of prescriptions? That might put people off stockpiling medicine they no longer need. Of course, the flip side would be that some people wouldn’t be able to afford their medication.
There are no easy answers here, but re-issued medication could be an option. Would you accept another patient’s leftover medicine? And how do you think the NHS can help patients waste less medicine?
Would you be happy to re-use medicines returned to the NHS?
Yes (53%, 238 Votes)
No (34%, 152 Votes)
I don't know (13%, 60 Votes)
Total Voters: 454