NHS Nene and NHS Corby Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have launched a new medicines waste campaign in Northamptonshire in a drive to help local healthcare services save millions of pounds.

Unused prescription medicines are costing the region a whopping £4.6 million every year, which, the groups note, is money that could have been used for 4,780 cataract operations, potentially life-saving breast cancer treatments for 304 mothers, and 600 life-saving heart operations.

According to Sue Smith, Head of Prescribing and Medicines Management at NHS Corby and Nene CCGs, medicines wastage is "a serious problem for the NHS". 

Some patents or carers are stockpiling more medication than they need, while others continue to order medicines that are no longer need, leading to a huge waste of precious resources.

“But that cost can be counted in human terms too, given the healthcare that this money could have been spent on, but also the health benefits that people may not be getting because they are not taking their medicines as intended," she stressed.

Pharmacists' role

Commenting on the campaign, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society pointed out that pharmacists can play a "key role" in helping reduce such waste through Medicines Use Reviews, which are designed to ensure that medicines are being taken properly and that they are still necessary.

Speaking to local BBC radio, RPS spokesman Neal Patel said the problem lies with "a system that isn't working as well as it should do, and that's probably about making the relationship between doctors, patients and pharmacists work better". 

"We need to make sure the systems support what is a finite resource," he said, and added that the Society is "pleased that this CCG group has seen this as a priority".

£150m a year salvageable

Nationally, around £300 million of prescription drugs are wasted every year, with around £90 million worth being stored in homes. But about £150 million of this is thought to be recoverable, highlighting the opportunity for substantial efficiency savings.

Last month, Wandsworth CCG also joined the growing list of those working to reduce unused prescription medicines, calling on patients to only order what they need to help cut into the £39.4 million worth wasted in the capitol.