GPs need to reduce medicines waste, RPS says

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unused meds GPs are wasting medicines by over-prescribing, leading patients to stockpile drugs, according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The RPS estimates that the NHS spends £300m each year on medicines that are prescribed and collected but never taken by patients.

The Society recommends that doctors should spend more time discussing each patient’s specific needs and avoid routine long-term prescriptions.

Ash Soni, Vice-Chair of the English pharmacy board of the RPS, said doctors should stick to monthly repeat prescriptions and patients should “have a better discussion” with their GP about medication problems.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he noted that drugs handed back to his London pharmacy in a month amount to “six bags and two drums” – none of which can be re-used, as their conditions of storage are unknown.

NHS England’s Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Clare Howard, said that medicines waste was due to “complex factors” including “the ways in which medicines are developed, doctors’ prescribing habits, the ways in which ‘repeat’ medicines are ordered, and of course patients’ understanding of the importance of taking medicines as prescribed and ensuring they only order what they need.”

Since the DH report on medicines waste in December 2012, the NHS has worked with the company Medicines Waste UK to remind patients of three guidelines: only order the medicines you need; take your medicines with you into hospital; and dispose of unwanted medicines safely.

The Royal College of GPs commented that managing patient expectations of “a prescription at the end of their consultation” made appropriate prescribing “difficult for GPs”.