Revealed: The millions of pounds wasted by this region’s patients not using medicines

Millions of pounds are lost each year in our region due to people wasting medicines. Photo credit sh

Millions of pounds are lost each year in our region due to people wasting medicines. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Health bosses across the region are urging people to help save millions of pounds by reducing the amount of wasted medicines.

The plea, from officers at Norfolk and Waveney's five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), is made as part of a new campaign aimed at reducing the estimated £4.7m lost every year from wasted medicines.

In weight this amounts around 176 tonnes - equal to at least 176 elephants.

Michael Dennis, a medicines management expert with the CCGs, said: ''NHS medicines are funded by the tax-payer.

'That means that if the medicine isn't used, it's the tax-payer who misses out.'

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The campaign has been named 'Your Medicines, Your NHS'.

Of the £4.7m worth of medicines wasted each year, estimates show:

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- £1.69m is being returned to pharmacies because it's not needed.

- £1.41m is kept by people at home and is out of date.

- £780,000 is disposed of in care homes.

Audits also show that around half the medication returned to pharmacies has not been opened, which means people are ordering it but not starting to use it.

Despite not being opened, the medicines cannot be re-issued and must be safely disposed of under Department of Health regulations.

The drugs can not even be sent to help other countries.

Mr Dennis added: 'There are some really easy things which everyone can do to help prevent waste and make the most of scarce NHS resources.'

The easiest way people can do this is by opening their medicine bag at the pharmacy counter when they receive medicines, and handing anything they no longer need back to the pharmacist.

People should also make sure they only order the medicines they will use.

The campaign comes at a time when NHS accounts are moving further into the red.

In the last financial year the NHS recorded a deficit of more than £2bn, while at the same time CCGs have been tasked with saving hundreds of millions of pounds.

Norfolk and Waveney's five CCGs must deliver more than £60m of savings this year.

Ian Small, another medicines management expert for the CCGs, said: 'People often ask us how they can help reduce costs for the NHS. This is an easy way to do just that, and will make a significant difference.'

You can find out more about the campaign by visiting or following the campaign on Twitter by searching for @YourMED_YourNHS and using the hashtags #openthebag and #yourmedicines.

Alternatively visit to watch a short film explaining more.

The five CCGs behind the campaign are: Norwich CCG, South Norfolk CCG, North Norfolk CCG, West Norfolk CCG, and Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG.

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