Medicines waste in primary and community care should not be seen as a major issue, a new report from the DH has concluded.
Evaluation of the Scale, Causes and Costs of Waste Medicines estimates the cost to the NHS of patients not taking medicines properly is more than £500 million a year.
But the DH says the issue is not a “a serious systemic problem” and has told managers to focus on ensuring patients take medicines in line with prescribing instructions to improve cost effectiveness.
The Steering Group to Improve the Use of Medicines was recently established to tackle the issue of misused medicines within the NHS.
The report, compiled by researchers from the health economics consortium at the University of York and the school of pharmacy at the University of London, analysed data on medicines compliance of patients with five long-term conditions to calculate the cost of non-adherence.
They found that over four years the figure the NHS could save is equivalent to 10% of the £20bn efficiency savings target the NHS needs to make by 2015.
Researchers estimate that less than half of the £300 million worth of medicines thrown away annually could be saved due to factors such as patients recovering or dying before a course of treatment has been completed.
The average PCT in England was also unlikely to save more than £500,000 a year through improved medicines management, the report found, the equivalent of between £1-2 per person.
Rob Darracott, who is joint-chair of the Steering Group, says the NHS needs a “real plan” for introducing new cost saving opportunities.
“There are lots of good ideas around for how health professionals can provide better support for patients and the public to help them use their medicines more effectively,” he said.