NHS cash poured down the drain...

The cost of wasted medicine in East Lindsey
The cost of wasted medicine in East Lindsey

Money which could be used to fund life-saving cancer treatments is being wasted each year through unused medicines.

Figures released by the Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group show an estimated £300m of wasted medicines are returned across England to GP practices and pharmacies in a year.

And in Lincolnshire alone the figure is some £5m, money which could fund 330 courses of breast cancer treatment, 1,350 hip replacements or 5,000 cataract operations.

In just one quarter of 2014, March 1 to May 31, the figure for the East Lindsey locality, which includes Market Rasen, Caistor and Wragby and Binbrook recorded almost £16,000 worth of waste medicines.

The Market Rasen surgery recorded £2,063.56 of wasted medicine over this period, while Caistor was only £62.47.

The Binbrook practice, which serves 2,400 patients, recorded a waste medicine value of £932.88 for the 2014 March to May quarter and practice manager Michael Meiwald explained that once returned the items have to be incinerated.

“We cannot reuse the medicine - it is law that they must be incinerated,” he said.

“We try to put as few things as possible on repeat prescription and always ask patients what they actually need - There isn’t much more we can do.”

But the problem of extra costs for the NHS doesn’t end there according to Mr Meiwald.

“The government wants us to dispense relatively cheap generic medicine, but some people insist on branded products - it is the same chemical in them,” he added.

Dr Brynnen Massey, who chairs the Lincolnshire East CCG, has described the figures as ‘staggering’.

“There are various reasons why they (medicines) are returned,” said Dr Massey, who is a GP at the North Thoresby surgery.

“Patients tend to stop taking their prescribed medication if it causes side effects or they think it is not working. Equally, it can be something as simple as people forgetting to take their medicines.”

And he has this message to patients: “Only order medicines that you need; check what you have at home before ticking your repeat slip and take your medicines with you if you go into hospital – they will be returned to you when you are discharged if you still need them.”

The practice managers at Market Rasen and Caistor were unavailable for comment.