MOST community pharmacists will have experienced the jaw dropping feeling of disbelief at the quantity (and quality) of patient medicine returns. Some return them when a family member passes away — an opportunity to clear their cupboards of decade’s worth of out of date medicines; others return a stockpile of medicines when they are switched to a new one or medication is stopped.
Frequently, however, some of these returned medicines have never been out of their boxes. Despite the fact that these medicines are pristine we are not allowed to re-use them and so they have to be disposed of. Occasionally the quantities are staggering.
There’s nothing more depressing than seeing a yellow dump bin graveyard full of untouched expensive medicines.
It’s about time we had a system in place to ensure that, with appropriate safeguards, we can make use of these medicines. Of course we would have to ensure that community pharmacists involved in the scheme were properly compensated.
It seems to me this is an excellent campaign for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (in partnership with negotiating bodies) to get involved in: sending educational messages about medicines wastage to patients and helping to reduce costs for the NHS — estimates put the figure at around £150 million.
It really is time that common sense prevailed.