ALMOST £7m worth of medicine is thrown away in Portsmouth and Hampshire each year.
The waste is largely due to patients over-ordering the amount of medicine actually needed, which cannot be reused and needs to be destroyed.
In Portsmouth £900,000 worth of pills and creams were incinerated by pharmacists last year.
And in Hampshire a staggering £6m of health money went down the drain from wasted medicine.
The figures have been released by primary care trust cluster Ship – which covers Southampton, Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Portsmouth.
Altogether the cluster’s region was responsible for around £9m worth of medicine wasted in one year – money that can be spent elsewhere in the NHS.
Portsmouth pharmacy leader Janet Bowhill said: ‘About 85 per cent of medicines issued in the city are for conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, which means people will constantly need drugs.
‘They will have a shopping list of medicines that they need from their doctors.
‘Quite a lot of people will tick them off and buy more than they need so it’s there.
‘Or they will give their prescription to a family member or friend to pick up on their behalf, and they will get everything on the list.’
Unused medicine needs to be returned to pharmacies, which incinerate it.
Even if the packets are unopened, they cannot be resold or passed onto third world countries to be reused – causing a huge amount of waste.
‘We won’t know how the medicine has been stored,’ added Janet.
‘We don’t know if it’s been sat on top of a fridge, in the warmth, and so the quality of the medicine might have been reduced.
‘Because of this we have to burn it.’
Today a five-week campaign is being launched by the health service to reduce medicine waste.
Patients are being encouraged to only order what they need and to return unwanted medicine to pharmacies for safe disposal.
Posters and information on the campaign will be available in GP surgeries and pharmacies across the area.
‘We’re not telling people to stop buying medicine – we’re asking people to get only what they need,’ added Janet.
‘And we’re asking people they should bring back unwanted medicine, for whatever reason that is, into pharmacies to be destroyed.
‘We don’t want them sitting in landfill and potentially making things toxic.’
For more information visit hampshire.nhs.uk/ship/medicinewaste.