Last month, we reported on how you can play your part in reducing East Berkshire’s wasted medication bill. Well, this month, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has taken the measure one step further by announcing a move to write the prices on all medication costing over £20. The measure has been taken in a bid to discourage wastefulness and raise awareness of the real costs of medication throughout England.


As well as displaying the price, from next year NHS medication will also feature the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” to serve as a reminder that medicine has a real cost attached to it, even when it is dispensed for free. It is also hoped the wording will encourage patients to pay closer attention to the precious nature of medicine by completing the course and keeping closer tabs on the amount of medication patients they are receiving.


At present, it is estimated that between 30-50% of patients are not taking their medication as advised by their GP or as instructed by the package guidelines. Currently, the NHS spends £13.3 billion each year on drugs. Of that figure, £300 million is wasted on unused medication. Research conducted by the Department of Health in 2010 found that half this figure could be avoided, while the other half can be attributed to the advancement and progression of illnesses requiring alternative forms of medication.


The Health Secretary is also calling for a more concerted effort towards self-care and healthcare education in a bid to reduce the pressure on the NHS. He is asking patients to take a greater level of responsibility when it comes to making and attending GP or hospital appointments. Patients are being asked to do their utmost to attend or make cancellations when they find they are no longer able to attend or no longer require them.


The move is not without its critics however. Pharmacy Voice has expressed concerns that older patients in particular may start going without due to fears that their requirement for medication is causing too big a burden on the taxpayer. While the Royal Pharmaceutical Society is arguing for a greater emphasis upon educating patients towards a greater understanding of the side effects and benefits of medication. They believe this will help patients learn more about why taking their medicine as advised is so important, ultimately reducing the amount that gets thrown away.


If you have concerns about the amount of medication you or a family member are prescribed, then you should make an appointment with your GP to go through your current list to make sure it is up to date.