A new study by Co-op Health has revealed that over a third of UK patients never get rid of left over medication, with a further third (33%) confessing to having used medication past its expiry date.

The research also found that almost half (48%) of those taking it past its expiry date didn’t realise it was out of date, a quarter (25%) presumed it would still be safe to take and a tenth (13%) didn’t need it at the time they bought it.

Painkillers, cold and flu remedies and antiseptic were amongst those most likely to be kept past their expiry date.

The problems aren’t just with out of date medicine, as almost a quarter (23%) of UK adults were found to have failed to complete a course of prescribed medication, with two fifths (38%) saying that this was down to feeling better before finishing them, a further fifth (20%) simply forgot and one in 10 were worried about the impact of taking too much.

A fifth (22%) of those who didn’t finish their medication felt the consequences, admitting they didn’t get better and had to get another prescription as a result.

Rachael Clarke, pharmacy superintendent at Co-op Health advises: “It’s so important to take care when using medication, if you’re unsure about something always seek advice from a professional and don’t chance it. Not completing courses of prescribed medication can be detrimental not only to our own health, but also to the effectiveness of medication for others.

“Incomplete courses of antibiotics have become a huge issue and repercussions are undeniable. It’s incredibly common to start to feel better before the end of a prescription but that never means you should stop taking it.”

The research was conducted among 2,000 UK adults with ICM on behalf of Co-op Health in June 2019.