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The rise of the healthcare hoarders - with Dr Ranj

Dr Ranj in studio with Co-op Health

Using expired medication, old prescriptions or even sharing medication can have serious health implications and is something that is so easily avoided.

New research by Co-op Health reveals that we are a nation of healthcare hoarders, with over a third of Brits admitting they never get rid of left over medication and a further third confessing to having used medication past its expiry date.

  • A third of Brits (33%) never get rid of left over medication
  • A quarter of UK adults admit to having not finished a course of prescribed medication
  • 1 in 7 people have taken prescription medication that wasn’t prescribed for them

Is this you?

When asked why they would resort to using old medication, almost half of Brits didn’t realise it was out of date, a quarter presumed it would still be safe to take and a tenth didn’t need it at the time they bought it. Painkillers (27%), cold and flu remedies (26%) and antiseptic (26%) were amongst those most likely to be kept past their expiry date.

Over two thirds of Brits admit that wasting medication makes them feel as though they’re draining NHS money and a further quarter feel as though it could have been given to someone else. Despite this, people are still willing to over order prescriptions and failing to complete courses of medication.

Almost a quarter of UK adults have failed to complete a course of prescribed medication, due to feeling better before finishing them, simply forgetting or being worried about the impact of taking too much.

Co-op Health advice

It’s so important to take care when using medication, if you’re unsure about something always seek advice from a professional and don’t chance it. Not completing courses of prescribed medication can be detrimental not only to our own health, but also to the effectiveness of medication for others.

Incomplete courses of antibiotics have become a huge issue and repercussions are undeniable. It’s incredibly common to start to feel better before the end of a prescription but that never means you should stop taking it.

As a nation of recyclers, over one in 10 (14%) of those surveyed have taken prescription medication that wasn’t prescribed for them. Over half (54%) said they did so because a family member or friend had given it to them, a third (32%) had taken them before so felt it would work and almost a fifth (18%) simply didn’t have time to go to their GP to pick up a prescription for themselves.

Dr Ranj, Doctor and TV presenter, commented:

“It comes as no surprise to me that we are a nation of hoarders, but we need to become much more aware when it comes to what we’re keeping in our medicine cabinets. Using expired medication, old prescriptions or even sharing medication can have serious health implications and is something that is so easily avoided. Simply learning how to correctly dispose of medication, or using an app to keep on top of repeat prescription orders can all help to tackle the issue."

Our top 5 tips on tackling medical waste:

  • Always check the expiry date on medication before taking it
  • Do not share prescribed medication
  • Always finish a course of prescribed medication – even if you start to feel better before completing it
  • Order online or via an app to reduce the chance of you ending up with prescriptions you may not need – this way, you can manage your own repeat prescriptions in real time, ordering them as and when you need them
  • You may think you can throw it in the bin but to dispose of medication, always return it to a pharmacist