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16 February 2017
Press release

Open the bag and look inside

A new campaign launched by NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups is encouraging people who get prescription medicine to open their prescription bag at the pharmacy counter or in front of the delivery driver, and hand back anything they don’t need.

It is estimated that the cost of wasted medicine annually is £1.3 million in west Suffolk and £2.1 million in east Suffolk, a total of £3.4 million, and includes:

Left unused in people’s homes - £630K (east Suffolk) and £390K (west Suffolk)

Returned unused to pharmacies (but can’t be re-used) - £780K (east Suffolk) and £481K (west Suffolk) 

Thrown away unused by care homes - £350K (east Suffolk) and £221K (west Suffolk)

Medicine wasted in other ways, including the cost of safe disposal - £350K (east Suffolk) and £212K (west Suffolk) 

Once you’ve taken prescription medicine away from the pharmacy or from the delivery driver, national Department of Health rules mean for safety reasons the medicine cannot be used by anyone else, even if the packet is unopened.  If you hand it back straight away it can be dispensed again by the pharmacist, avoiding unnecessary cost and waste.

Dr Andrew Hassan, member of the Governing Body of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Wasted medicines are a big problem, costing taxpayers and the NHS millions of pounds each year. With the NHS facing continued financial pressures we want to encourage people to “Open The Bag” and hand back any prescription medicine they don’t need or use.

“Doing so could make a really big difference and ensure that this money can be better spent on patient care rather than being wasted.”

Dr David Egan, prescribing lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “As well as opening the bag, there are other actions people can take.  Do not tick the boxes on your repeat prescription form for any medicines you don’t need or use and don’t be afraid to tell the pharmacist, your GP or nurse that you’ve stopped taking your repeat medicine. They won’t be angry with you or disappointed. 

“You might feel you are better and don’t need the medicine, or it could be that you are experiencing side effects. Either way, talk to your healthcare professional and they’ll help you. And open the bag and return anything you don't need."

You can view the Open The Bag leaflet for east Suffolk HERE


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