Alan Castle: Prescribing a waste of money

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The other day I found a packet of partially unused prescription drugs in the back of a cupboard.

They had been a medication which had been changed to another and were therefore no longer required.

Being of the sensible sort I decided it would be a good idea to take them into the local chemists and asked if there was a charity that they could be forwarded onto to be used either in this country or another.

Sorry, he said, no chance. We have to send them on to a central source and there they are destroyed.

‘What a waste’ I said and he agreed. Thousands, probably millions, he added was being wasted on unused drugs.

I decided to look into the matter a little further.

I came up with the following, courtesy of the internet: ‘A report commissioned by the Department of Health found that unused medicines were costing the NHS at least £300million a year in England, although this was likely to be an underestimate.

‘Scotland and Wales account for waste of £70million while in Northern Ireland the figure is just £2.5million – after a public education campaign’.

I found these figure staggering. In fact if you dig into the matter you can find tales of care professionals finding sack loads of drugs in some homes. Tales of repeat prescriptions which were never used, one obese person, prescribed slimming pills, did not take them because they ruined her appetite. I kid you not.

So when you try and order your next load of pills, ask yourself, do I really need that amount and at the same time you can understand why the doctor or the repeat prescription person is very reluctant to increase the amount they are giving you.

Surely if pills are still in a sealed packet and they are well before their sell-by date could they not be used by hospitals and charities in this country or third-world countries? It seems to be a waste of useful medication and taxpayer’s money.

Finally, congratulations to those who organised events or filled the streets of villages and towns throughout north Northumberland for the procession of the Olympic Torch, you did Northumberland proud.