Medicines Wastage

Policy topic

The total medicines bill for the NHS was £13.3bn in 2013/2014. The majority of this is in the community; over 1bn items were dispensed in the community last year, but up to 50% of medicines are not taken as intended.

This presents a problem not just for the patient's care, but also is a huge area of wastage in the NHS. As part of the medicines optimisation agenda, the RPS looks to tackle medicines wastage through reducing unnecessary prescribing, encouraging proper medicine adherence, and proper disposal of unused medicines.

  • An estimated £300m of medicines go unused, of which approximately half is recoverable
  • There is an estimated £500m opportunity cost from people not taking their medicines as intended.

There are many case studies of pharmacists taking the lead in this field, improving patient care and reducing costs:

  • In Leicester city, pharmacists found 56% of Asthma sufferers had poor technique, and were trained to provide advice on the proper use of inhalers
  • In Medway pharmacist intervention led to a reduction or withdrawl of highly potent (and dangerous) antipsychotic medicines from 61% of care home residents
  • In Northumbria, for every £1 invested in pharmacist interventions saved £2.38 from the medicines bill at a care home (£184 per person reviewed).

In July 2015, the Government revealed plans to put the price of medicines worth over £20 on the packets to encourage medicine adherence. The RPS welcomes moves to increase adherence, but is concerned by any risk that people will stop taking or collecting their medicines because of this move. The RPS maintains pharmacist consultations with patients and improved understanding of medicines is vital to tackling the problem of medicines wastage.