Letter to the Editor
In response to your article on returning unwanted medicines to pharmacies,1 there is an additional source of wasted medication in nursing homes. These facilities have contracted pharmacies that supply medicines to residents. Most of these pharmacies will not use or pack medicines that they have not dispensed (for economic and protocol reasons). Therefore, when a resident arrives from hospital (new or returning resident) or the community, the medicines they arrive with are incinerated rather than administered to them. Private hospitals in particular dispense medicines in full packs even if a patient is only admitted for one or two days.
When a patient comes from home there is the risk that their medication has been improperly stored and may not be 100% reliable. However, when they are transported via ambulance from one health facility to another I find that argument hard to swallow. The lack of dispensing fee or equivalent packing or checking fee at the pharmacy seems more to the point.
I tried to collect such medication to give to a charity (i.e. refugees without Medicare or Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme rights) but it was declined on logistical grounds.
Is there a way to reduce waste either by redirecting the medicines or facilitating the packing and use of existing medicines? I’d love to see less waste within the medical system and the redirection of funds to where they are needed most.
General practitioner, Melbourne
- Bettington E, Spinks J, Kelly F, Wheeler AJ. Returning unwanted medicines to pharmacies: prescribing to reduce waste. Aust Prescr 2018;41:78–81.
- Medicine Waste UK. Only order what you need. [cited 2018 Sep 3].
- NPS MedicineWise. Choosing Wisely Australia. [cited 2018 Sep 3].
- Kelly F, McMillan S, Spinks J, Bettington E, Wheeler AJ. ‘You don’t throw these things out:’ an exploration of medicines retention and disposal practices in Australian homes. BMC Public Health 2018;18:1026.
- Connelly D. Should pharmacists be allowed to reuse medicines? Pharmaceut J 2018;301.
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