Shropshire pharmacist warns against government plan

A pharmacist in Shropshire has warned a government plan to display how much prescription medicines cost the taxpayer could put lives at risk.

John Gentle, superintendent pharmacist at The Pharmacy @ Caxton in Oswestry, said the plans announced last week could have unintended consequences.

He said: “I sympathise with the government’s aims here and agree that there is a lot of medicine being wasted at a cost of millions of pounds, money that the NHS could spend on healthcare for other patients.
“If such a simple solution could end medicine wastage then that would be great but there are likely to be some unintended consequences as not all patients act the same way when they receive a message like this.”
The scheme revealed that the figure and the words “funded by the UK taxpayer” will be added to all packs of prescription medicine costing more than £20 in England.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it is intended to help reduce the £300million bill for “wasted” medication - which is prescribed but not used - by reminding people of the cost of medicine.

But Mr Gentle, who has been a pharmacist for 29 years and has worked at the pharmacy in Oswald Road since it opened in 2012, said this may cause harm to some groups of people in Shropshire and across the country.

He said: “By showing people how much a prescription costs some patients may decide to continue taking their medicine when their doctor decides they should stop taking it for clinical reasons. They may not want to waste it and continue to take it with adverse effects on their health.

“Some patients may decide to share medicines with their friends who may, outwardly, have similar symptoms in order to save money. This can often be a dangerous thing to do and is never a good idea.

“Some patients may decide to stop taking their medicines to save the NHS money without realising the dangers this may expose them to.

“And some patients may feel guilty about the high cost of a medicine and may decide not to take it which could be dangerous for their health.”

Members of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said around 30 to 50per cent of patients do not use medicines as intended.
The group has stressed the importance of making sure people understand the side effects and benefits of medicine, which could also influence a decision to take it or throw it away.
It is something Mr Gentle agrees with.

“If medicines are labelled in the way suggested then it will be important to look at the extent of people’s reactions,” he added.
“It may well have a negative impact on the health of some people and end up costing the NHS more money on the long run.

“Whilst it is good to see the government looking at the issue of wastage of medicines, it is the details behind this proposal which are yet to be published which will be important.
“Before it is implemented there should be some research on the effects that this may have on different groups of patients, particularly the elderly.”
The Pharmacy @ Caxton is open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6pm and 8.30am to noon on a Saturday.