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Labelling bags with drug costs helps patients consider waste

By News team

Pharmacists should do more to engage with patients ahead of reordering repeat prescriptions in order to tackle waste, according to Manir Hussain, head of medicines optimisation at North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent clinical commissioning groups.

Dr Hussain highlighted the problem of medicines waste at last week’s Royal College of General Practitioners annual primary care conference, held in Harrogate from 3 to 5 October 2013. He spoke about his continuing campaign against medicines waste across the two CCGs, which ask pharmacists to attach a label to repeat medicines bags stating the cost to the NHS of the drugs inside.

“We are working to help patients understand why they shouldn’t waste their medicines, or stockpile them, and to only order what they need,” he said. “Out of the 825 patients we surveyed about the issue of medicines wastage, 86 per cent thought labelling medicine bags was a good idea because it helped patients respect the cost of their medicines more, although 10 per cent of respondents also thought that unused or unexpired medicines that they returned to the pharmacy could be reused.”

Dr Hussain suggested that pharmacists have a vital role to play in getting the message across to customers, but that they also need to take responsibility for reducing medicines wastage themselves. “For example, our survey also found that only 42 per cent of respondents said their pharmacy contacted them before reordering their repeat medicines to see if anything on their prescription had changed,” he added. “Even if pharmacists have trouble contacting patients, it seems that in some instances they could do more to make sure they are speaking to patients or their carers about their medicines at the appropriate time, and use smarter ways of engaging with patients before reordering.”

A 2010 Department of Health report estimated that £110m worth of medicines is returned to pharmacies, £50m disposed of by care homes and £90m of unused prescriptions stored in homes.

Jan James, chief executive of the “Medicine waste” campaign discussed how to run a good waste campaign. “Medicines wastage is everyone’s business and everyone’s problem,” she said. “We think these figures are a conservative estimate, so our campaign is encouraging GPs and pharmacists to carry out more [medicines reviews], as well as supporting more patient engagement to ‘only order what you need’, which got positive feedback from GPs during the session.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11128270

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  • Pile of waste medicines

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