This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

Wasted medicine 'costs the NHS £800 million'

Written by: | Published:

Poor adherence to medication can have devastating Poor adherence to medication can have devastating consequences for patients

Public attitudes to taking prescription medicine must be changed, according to a report which found that one in five adults misses a round of daily medication, costing the NHS as much as £800 million every year.

Researchers from ComRes on behalf of healthcare technology company Omnicell, interviewed 2048 British adults. They found that 21% of respondents said they had missed a dose of prescribed medicine, while 12% said that they had not finished a course of medication. Additionally 31% of people said that they disposed of medication they had not used, while 6% said that they had given it to someone else. Just over one in three of people said they take unused medicine to their local pharmacy, while a quarter of respondents said they would throw it away, and 6% said they would be inclined to ‘throw it down the toilet’.

Poor adherence to medication can have devastating consequences for patients. The report highlights the impact of complications relating to diabetes, with approximately 5200 patients having a limb amputated each year, while as many as 1300 people lose their sight due to diabetic retinopathy. The report states that these figures could be reduced if medicine management was improved. ‘All of the major chronic illnesses need good medication adherence to keep them under control,' said Paul O’Hanlon, managing director of UK and Ireland at Omnicell. 'Take diabetes as an example, the eventual result of poor compliance can be amputation.’

The report estimated that the current state of medication and adherence costs the NHS £300 million each year in wasted medicines, while the side effects and complications caused by people not finishing courses of antibiotics costs as much as £500 million. It recommended that healthcare professionals such as nurse prescribers, GPs and pharmacists should engage with patients to emphasise the importance of good medication adherence.

'There are currently five million patients in the UK taking four or more medications, many of who require further support to take their medication correctly – above and beyond existing adherence systems,' said O'Hanlon. 'None of the reasons why patients are failing to adhere to medication are insurmountable. Better patient education, targeted use of support services by pharmacists and utilising modern technology to aid compliance would go a long way to stemming the flow of resources down the toilet – quite literally in some cases.’

The report was published to coincide with National Medication Adherence Week, which will run from 16 to 23 October.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


£500 Million wasted on not finishing courses of abx ? please could you send me a ref.? Kind regards Andrew
Posted by: ,

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Most read articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Practice Nursing Journal latest issue and most read articles.

Click here to read a selection of free to access articles from Practice Nursing Journal


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.