Tay­side health chiefs highlight scourge of wasted med­i­ca­tion

NHS bosses ad­mit they have no idea how much pre­scrip­tion medicine is be­ing wasted

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - Derek healey dhealey@the­courier.co.uk

Health chiefs have ad­mit­ted they have no way of know­ing how much un­used med­i­ca­tion is go­ing to waste across Tay­side.

The rev­e­la­tion comes af­ter Dundee mum Jane Mclean dis­cov­ered a mas­sive stash of pre­scrip­tion drugs in the at­tic of her new fam­ily home at the week­end.

Ms Mclean moved into the prop­erty with her nine-year-old daugh­ter and pet dog two months ago and was left “fum­ing” when she dis­cov­ered the eye-wa­ter­ing se­lec­tion of pills, painkillers and in­halers.

NHS Tay­side has pledged to in­ves­ti­gate the value of the mas­sive haul and said the case high­lighted the spi­ralling cost of wasted and un­wanted med­i­ca­tion in the re­gion.

David Coulson, the health board’s as­so­ciate di­rec­tor of phar­macy, said it was un­likely to be an iso­lated in­ci­dent but in­sisted NHS Tay­side was work­ing hard to pre­vent pa­tients need­lessly stock­pil­ing drugs.

“It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to gauge the ex­act scale of the prob­lem,” he said.

“I think a lot of peo­ple are be­ing pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion they don’t feel they need or can take and for what­ever rea­son, are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to com­mu­ni­cate that to their GP or phar­ma­cist.”

Mr Coulson re­vealed more than 42% of pa­tients treated by the board’s acute frailty team were re­ferred due to medicine-re­lated causes, with con­fu­sion over pre­scrip­tions be­ing one of the top rea­sons for ad­mis­sion.

“We have many older pa­tients who may have mul­ti­ple pre­scrip­tions given for mul­ti­ple con­di­tions and it can be very dif­fi­cult to man­age – that’s why we are look­ing to raise the is­sue of polyphar­macy and hope­fully re­fine the way we in­ter­act with pa­tients,” he said.

NHS Tay­side said all of the med­i­ca­tion re­cov­ered from Ms Mclean’s home would be de­stroyed, as drugs that have been dis­pensed and col­lected by pa­tients can­not be reused.

The health board spent a stag­ger­ing £140 mil­lion on pre­scrip­tions last year, with un­used or wasted medicines re­ported to cost the NHS at least £1.4 mil­lion.

An­drew Radley, con­sul­tant in pub­lic health for phar­macy, said pa­tients should come for­ward if they feel they are be­ing given too much med­i­ca­tion or that it is not work­ing prop­erly.

“They mustn’t just put it away in a store cup­board,” he said.

“There are of course risks with keep­ing medicines for a long time, such as them not work­ing when you do even­tu­ally go to take them, but there is also the fact these es­sen­tial re­sources could in­stead have been used to help some­one who re­ally needed them.”

I think a lot of peo­ple are be­ing pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion they don’t feel they need or can take... DAVID COULSON

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 us who 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.

Pic­ture: Mhairi Ed­wards.

Jane Mclean with the un­used pre­scrip­tion drugs she found when she moved into her new house.

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