Almost 33% of patients do not collect medications which their GP has prescribed for them, according to a new survey.

The majority of those who had not picked up prescription following a GP consultation said they had not done so because of a lack of time, while 22% said they did not want to pay for the medication and 15% admitted that they "couldn't be bothered" to collect it.

12% said they did not fill a prescription because they disagreed with their GP's diagnosis, and nearly 60% said that they had found the same treatment available over-the-counter (OTC) for less money.

Other reasons given included embarrassment and concerns over possible side effects. One in eight of the 2,000 people surveyed admitted that they had lost a prescription at some time.

34% of patients on regular medication admitted to the survey that they had "forgotten" to collect their repeat prescriptions and had subsequently run out of their medication.

"Given the ever-increasing pressure on the NHS and on primary care in particular, it is disappointing to discover that patients who have taken the time and trouble to visit their GP do not complete the episode of healthcare by having their prescription filled," commented Julian Harrison, commercial director of Pharmacy2U, which commissioned the survey and is the UK's largest on-line pharmacy.

"Particularly worrying are the numbers of patients on repeat prescriptions who regularly forget to pick up medication and run out. Among them are people suffering from serious, long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], where compliance is crucial," he added.

- Last August, the government announced the formation of a new Steering Group to Improve the Use of Medicines, tasked with finding ways to tackle the estimated £300 million lost to the NHS in England every year as a result of medicines wastage, at least half of which is avoidable.

In addition, the cost to the NHS of people not taking their medicines properly and not getting the full benefits to their health is estimated at more than £500 million a year.

The Steering Group is expected to issue an initial report early this year.