Pharmacy Information

Speak Up! against medicines waste

Have you or a family member stopped taking a medicine which is still being prescribed?

Once you collect your medicines from the pharmacy, they can’t be recycled or re-used – even if the packaging is intact or in a sealed container.

Every year in NHS Scotland, £20 million is spent on medicines waste. The biggest problem comes from repeat prescriptions that people no longer need or use. 

A recent survey of staff in NHSGGC highlighted a lack of awareness that medication can’t be re-used once it is returned.

Now a new campaign has been has been launched by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and the six Health and Social Care Partnerships in the area to highlight the significant and growing problem of medicines waste and to encourage us all to help tackle it.

Audrey Thompson, Lead Pharmacist Prescribing Services, said: “Around half of all medication returned to pharmacists for disposal is not opened – meaning that people are ordering and receiving medication that they don’t even start to use.

“The reasons why patients don’t take all their medication can vary, such as worrying they may run out of medicine or not wanting to tell their GP if they’ve stopped taking their medicine.

“We want to ensure our staff, whether they receive regular medication themselves, or if they have a family member that is on repeat prescription, know the facts about this issue and know what to do if they have stopped taking a medication that is still being prescribed.”

The Speak Up! campaign asks staff to consider and act on medicines waste in their personal life and at work. It will run for four months, and will provide information on repeat prescriptions, self-care, the use of generic drugs rather than branded versions and ways in which staff can help tackle waste.

Look out for the campaign posters, articles in staff newsletters, and on social media.  To find out more, go to the dedicated webpages

There are a number of ways to help reduce wasted medicines

Only order the medicines that you need

  • Please let your GP or pharmacist know if you’ve stopped taking any of your medicines
  • Check what medicines you still have at home before re-ordering
  • Ask your pharmacist, GP surgery or practice nurse for a medication review
  • Think carefully before ticking all the boxes on your repeat prescription forms and only tick those you need
  • If you don’t need the medicine please don’t order it! If you need the medicine in the future you can still request it.
  • If you need to go into hospital, please remember to take all your medicines with you in a clearly marked bag.

Remember that unused medicines cannot be recycled

  • Even if you never open them, once medicines have left the pharmacy, they cannot be recycled or used by anyone else.
  • Please bring your unused medicines to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • NEVER dispose of your unused or unwanted medicines down the toilet

Unused medicines are a safety risk

  • Return out of date medicines to your pharmacy or dispensary for safe disposal
  • If your medicines change - return your old medicines to the pharmacy for safe disposal to avoid mixing them up with your new medicines
  • Don't stockpile medication - it is a safety risk for children and others who might take them
  • Store medicines in an appropriate place out of reach of children