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Patients urged not to stockpile medicines
STOCKPILING of unwanted medicine is costing a North-East town upwards of £500,000-a-year, it has been claimed.
The figure was revealed after the family of one patient from Darlington handed over four crates containing thousands of pounds’ worth of unused drugs after her death.
Dr David Russell, a GP at the Orchard Court medical centre, in the town, said the issue was a massive problem for the NHS.
He said he had decided to go public with the story because he hoped it could raise awareness of the need to avoid wasting scarce NHS resources.
He said if every patient on repeat medication only ticked a box when they were running out of a particular drug, it could save the NHS about £500,000-a-year in Darlington alone.
Nationally, the Department of Health estimates that the annual cost of wasted prescription medicine is about £300m – with about half of that due to people unnecessarily renewing repeat prescriptions.
“It was incredible just how many unused drugs were in those four crates,” said Dr Russell, who is the lead doctor for prescribing for the new Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group.
“This was a lady who had a number of chronic illnesses who was on a lot of regular prescribed drugs.
When she died, her family brought the drugs in that she hadn’t used and it became apparent that she had been renewing every prescription in full, every time, regardless of whether she actually needed that particular medication.
“When her GP checked with the pharmacy which made up the prescriptions for the patient, the pharmacist said she would ring up regularly and say she was running out of all her medication.”
In the past, GPs in Darlington have attached leaflets to prescriptions in a bid to curb the problem.
While Dr Russell acknowledges that, in the majority of cases, patients are sensible when renewing their prescriptions, a minority end up hoarding unused drugs.
“We know that a lot of patients who are on repeat prescriptions routinely tick for every drug whether they need it or not,” he said.
“In an ideal world we shouldn’t be doing that. We should be only ticking the boxes for the drugs we really need and we need to get that message across to people because it is costing the NHS a fortune.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Everybody has a role to play in making sure NHS medicines – and resources – are not going to waste.
“If everybody takes responsibility for waste – patients by taking their medicines as intended and not asking for repeat prescriptions that they don’t need, healthcare professionals by prescribing more thoughtfully, and colleagues across the NHS by working together better – many millions could be saved every year.”
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