pharmacist handling drugs

Four in 10 throw away NHS prescriptions survey finds

Between September 2020 and August 2021 there were 1.1 billion prescribed items in England, with nearly 450 million of those are thought to be wasted.

A recent survey of 2,000 respondents, has found that 40 percent of people have admitted to throwing away unused prescriptions.

According to NHS Digital, in 2019-2020 the NHS spent £20.9 billion on drugs.

Only 56 percent of those surveyed were aware of the costs of unused medication to the NHS which is thought to be £300 million every year.

The Midlands alone wasted over 85 million prescriptions but per population, the Northwest had the worst wastage rates with 9.4 wasted prescriptions per person.

The survey also looked at what medicines different age groups have in their household, revealing that 25-34-year-olds are the most likely to keep their medicines stocked.

The most common type of medicine for people to have in their homes was paracetamol (52%), followed by ibuprofen (36%) and then cold and flu tablets (28%).

Figures also showed that whilst paracetamol may be the most common medicine to have, it is also the oldest product in people's medicine cabinet.

Medicines that are taken past their use by date can be less effective and, in some cases, dangerous due to the changed in the chemical composition but the survey revealed that only 62 percent of people checked expiry dates, with over a third admitting they had taken out of date medicine.

Whilst the top 15 medicines recorded as most likely to be in peoples medicine cabinets were all over the counter drugs, nearly a third (29%) of the survey respondents admitted to taking medicines that were not prescribed to them. Half (42%) of those were aged 25-34 and a third (33%) were male.

Those who work within healthcare were found to be the third least cautious when it comes to taking medicines, just behind people working in Human Resources and Engineering.

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