Bitter pill to swallow: £300 cost of unused medicines

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The NHS loses £300 million each year in England due to unused and untaken medicines, much of which could be saved by using medicines more effectively.

A new public awareness campaign launched today highlights the importance of taking medicines as prescribed to improve long-term health and ensure better value for the NHS, and the significant role that pharmacists can play in helping people to do this.

Many people are unaware of the range of advice and support available from their pharmacists who, as medicines experts, can help them to understand more about taking and staying on their medicines.

The campaign encourages more people to talk to their pharmacists about how to get the best out of their medicines as well as the benefits this brings in improving long-term health, ensuring better value for the NHS.

Pharmacist Sarah Billington said: “It’s not just people taking lots of medicines who can find it difficult to take them as prescribed.

“We all lead busy lives and it can be easy to forget. As patients we can feel bombarded with information and instructions and community pharmacists are there to help.

“Pharmacists provide advice on all aspects of medicines taking and can support you throughout the course of your treatment to ensure you are getting the best out of your medicines.”

Television GP Dr Hilary Jones supports this sentiment: “With the average patient appointment being around seven minutes, GPs don’t always have enough time to talk in as much detail as we would like about the medicines we prescribe.

“Of course we say why we’re prescribing them but we probably don’t go into great detail about things like why medicines should be taken at certain times of the day, why certain foods should be avoided, why it’s important to stick to the prescribed dosing schedule. Pharmacists are perfectly placed to have these conversations.”

Eye-catching posters will be displayed in pharmacies across England designed to encourage people to speak to their local pharmacist and seek advice about their health and medicines.

The posters feature a range of visually engaging images of recognisable skylines featuring a ‘tower of medicines’ to illustrate the issue of unused and untaken medicines.

Martin Astbury, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said: “Not taking a medicine as prescribed means people don’t receive the real benefit from it. As a result, their symptoms may not be managed effectively and their health could suffer further. The Government has identified pharmacy as having a key role in the future of the public’s health and we welcome any initiative that supports this, highlighting the important services pharmacists provide to their local communities.”