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STOP WASTE OF PRESCRIPTION MEDICINES
Volunteers from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme in the West, led by Tony Comer and John Griffiths in Bath, are campaigning to reduce the level of waste of NHS medicines by recycling and reusing as much of it as possible.
Research by MP Grant Shapps in 2007 showed that wasted medicines cost the NHS over £300 million each year. Tony Comer has established, through research by him and other organisations, that much of this supposed waste consists of dry medicines that have been returned by patients to pharmacists and doctors’ surgeries or which have passed their formal use-by date. Sterile dressings, still packed and usable, are often thrown out because they are theoretically outdated but — like the drugs — are still safe to use.
A very small part of this material — about 1½ tons — has been recycled by a company called InterCare (Medical Aid for Africa) to needy people in sub-Saharan Africa. Much more could be redeployed in this way but Intercare can’t handle larger quantities. The rest is sent to companies working under contract to the NHS which incinerate everything. Tony Comer commented, “This medicinal and clinical waste — mainly the dry medicines and sterile dressings — should, where possible, be recycled into the NHS to reduce this extraordinary annual cost.”
He went on, “It has also become apparent that some very expensive items of equipment are simply being ‘dumped’ – through advances in design and technology or through over-procurement or mismanagement – and that a significant number of civil servants are employed specifically to deal with this ‘disposal’. Much of this equipment could also be recycled.”
It is vital, he believes, that ways should be found to recycle much more. This would save money for the NHS as well as aiding those in developing countries who badly need the materials that he suggests are merely being thoughtlessly destroyed.
It has been argued that a change in the law is needed to allow recycling of drugs. Tony Comer believes not, but if legislation is needed it should be modelled on laws already in place in some states in the US. “If the law needs to be changed,” he points out, “it’s our representatives in Parliament who will need to enact it. Your help in bringing this issue to the attention of your local MP, PCT or other influential parties can only help the case for change.”
There are certainly serious issues involved, such as ensuring that medicines are pure, safe and fresh, that drugs are not misused and that controlled substances are excluded and that the sorting, verification and distribution of the medicines should be supervised by qualified and state-licensed pharmacists or pharmacies. But he is certain that such issues can be resolved with determination, energy and goodwill.
For further information contact Tony Comer.
© 2003–12 RSVP West. Page last updated on 5 June 2012.
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