Drive to cut wasted prescriptions in Wales

A campaign is being launched to reduce the amount of wasted medicines in Wales with the aim of saving the NHS up to £50m.

Over 250 tons of out of date, surplus and redundant drugs are returned each year to pharmacies and GP surgeries.

Patients receiving prescription medicines will be urged to order the right amounts and not to stockpile.

The assembly government drive, which follows a pilot scheme in west Wales, is backed by medics.

It includes radio adverts and leaflets distributed by GP surgeries and pharmacies.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, and the NHS Chief Executive, Paul Williams, will be writing to health professionals to remind them only to prescribe what is necessary.

Unwanted medicines cannot be reused or recycled and all have to be destroyed in an incinerator.

The campaign features the case of one patient who returned unwanted medicines worth £2,000.

The assembly government said the abolition of prescription charges in Wales in April 2007 had not caused a rise in the number of medicines prescribed.

It said this was backed by an independent report by Cardiff University, Bangor University and University of Glamorgan.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said: "Millions of pounds worth of waste medicines are being burnt every year.

"This is money that could be better spent elsewhere in the NHS.

"Not only is there a significant cost associated with wasted medicines, if people have out-of-date medicines, they are risking their health."

Chris Martin, a pharmacist and chair of Hywel Dda health board, led a group looking at the use of medicines in Wales and recommended the development of a campaign to highlight wasted medicines.

He said: "We looked at how we could roll out a national scheme based on the pilot work that was successfully undertaken in the Hywel Dda area last year.

"This will be a collaboration between the professionals and the public, working together to reduce waste in Wales."

However, Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies said the campaign highlighted a well-known problem and the assembly government had been slow to act.

"Wales needs a sustained campaign to reduce medicines wastage rather than flash in the pan adverts," he added.

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