Medications Wastage

Waste not, want not in healthcare - It’s everyone’s responsibility to reduce medicines waste.

Better management of medications and reducing waste could save New Zealand healthcare hundreds of millions of dollars.

Whanau Tahi have written a paper on Medical waste. The paper looks at why medication waste occurs, its cost, the issue of non-adherence and the importance of using information more effectively.

It points out that medication has become part of everyday life, resulting in a lack of understanding about its importance and value.

There are various causes of medication waste including over prescribing and bulk dispensing, for example when a patient leaves hospital with a larger supply of pain medication than is actually needed. This may be convenient but it often results in some being leftover.

It also discusses the complex issue of non-adherence and its significant health and economic consequences.

In New Zealand there is an estimated $40m cost for medication waste, or five per cent of the total $800m total pharmaceutical spend. In addition, there is also the conservatively estimated $700m cost for non-adherence, mostly related to unplanned and avoidable hospitalisation, and expensive secondary care.

Of all the issues relating to medication waste, non-adherence is cited as the most serious and surprisingly common with rates reported of between 25-75%.

There are many reasons for non-adherence such as patient perception of their condition, self-regulation, coping styles, the role of psychology and cultural influences.

The paper goes on to look at what more can be done to reduce waste in the future and bring more efficiency.

It discusses the continued and widespread adoption of information technology as one of the main pathways to improvement but points out patients and healthcare professionals need to change their behaviour for it to reach its potential.

It acknowledges the New Zealand Health Strategy’s “People Powered” theme and highlights the importance of technology and information to drive patients to be co-pilots of their health.

Evolving views about privacy is discussed in order to realise benefits from non-identifiable information.

The paper also emphasises the need for more investment in adherence potentially via public private partnerships and looks at the case for changing the medication delivery system.

Radio Interview discussion of "Waste not, Want not" paper.