Wasted medication is damaging us all
When a Dundee woman found a huge haul of unused prescription drugs in her attic her first concern was understandably what might have happened if her daughter had stumbled across them. But the discovery has shone a light on an issue that is indirectly harming people across the region.
Prescribing rules mean all of the medication recovered from the Dundee attic will have to be destroyed. And at a time when NHS Tayside is under intense scrutiny over how it manages its budget, it is galling to realise this case is simply the tiny tip of a very large iceberg.
The health authority spent £140 million on prescriptions last year. Some estimates have put the cost to the NHS of unused or wasted medication as high as a tenth of that sum.
Imagine the good that money could have done if it had been spent where it was really needed.
To its credit, the health board has been working to highlight the issue of stockpiling and hopefully the publicity around this case will help hammer that message home.
With older people who are being prescribed many kinds of medication there is an onus on professionals and carers to ensure they are being taken properly.
But all of uswho use the NHS must play our part. If we are unhappy with our prescription, we have a duty to the sick and frailer members of society to discuss it with our doctor and to ensure scarce resources can be directed at those who need them most.