Lloydspharmacy reveals over 11 million Britons risking health by taking old medicines
Lloydspharmacy, the community pharmacy chain, has revealed that one in four* (24%) of the population in Great Britain - or 11 million** adults - has taken or applied medicines which they later discovered were out of date.
Lloydspharmacy found that more than half (53%) of people do not always check the expiry date of medicines before taking them or giving them to a family member.
This is worrying considering that nearly one in six people (17%) never clear out their medicine cabinets. It presents the risk of expired medicines being used when they are no longer deemed safe. Many medicines become ineffective when they pass their expiry date and could also cause harm if they are taken by someone they were not intended for.
And they don’t just pose a risk to the public’s health. The annual cost to the NHS in unused medicines in the UK is around £396million*** so it’s important that medicines are managed effectively.
Additionally, nearly half (49%) the population do not throw away their out of date medicines correctly, either putting them in the bin, pouring them down the toilet or sink or simply keeping them in their medicine cabinet when they should be taken to a pharmacy or chemist to be disposed of safely.
Lloydspharmacy is running a ’medicines amnesty’ in all of its 1,650 pharmacies where people can take in their old prescription or medicines to be disposed of properly****. For those who are on repeat prescriptions, the pharmacist can undertake a free Medicine Check Up***** to help manage medications and offer advice on how to reduce wastage.
Melinda Setanoians, prescribing pharmacist at Lloydspharmacy, says: “Taking out of date medicines is not advisable. At the very least, they might not be as effective as usual. For example, you wouldn’t want to take an old cholesterol lowering medicine which may not be effective - and an old, less reliable insulin pen used to treat diabetes could be dangerous as it may not provide the dose that is intended. If you use an out of date ointment, spray or cream there is a risk of high bacteria levels in the bottle or tube. Next time you’re popping to the shops, bring your old and unused medicines to your local Lloydspharmacy so we can dispose of them safely.”
Notes to editors:
*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from ICM. Total sample size was 2031 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th - 14th February 2011. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Research does not include Northern Ireland.
**Exact figure 47,358,000. Taken as a percentage of the overall Great Britain population (60,003,100) from the Office of National Statistics
***Source: A report by the York Health Economics Consortium and the School of Pharmacy at the University of London in 2010, which showed unused prescription medicines cost the NHS in England at least £300 million with at least 50 per cent avoidable.
****Lloydspharmacy cannot accept needles, syringes or other sharps, chemicals, veterinary products, pesticides or other garden chemicals, paints, solvents and oils, dialysis kits and anything else that is not a medicine
*****Applicable for patients who are taking more than one medication and have at least three months of records with the pharmacy. Not available in Scotland, NI and Channel Islands
Lloydspharmacy has over 1650 pharmacies across the UK. These are based predominantly in community and health centre locations. The company employs over 17,000 staff and dispenses over 151 million prescription items annually and also offers an online doctor service and products to assist in the aid of many different ailments including the tens machine which provides pain relief by delivering electrical pulses to the body via electrodes on the skin.
Lloydspharmacy Press Office
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