More should pay prescription costs, says doctor

A way to cut the cost of wasted NHS medicines would be to ask all patients to meet some of their prescription costs, a Cambridge doctor has said.

Dr Ralph Salmon's comments came as NHS Cambridgeshire joined a campaign to tackle the estimated £300m of unused prescription drugs in the UK each year.

Dr Salmon said: "Only about 20% of patients pay directly for any prescription charge."

He believes patients would waste fewer drugs if they had to pay for them.

'Huge drain'

"It's almost like writing a blank cheque sometimes, when you prescribe things and very often patients don't even bother taking them," Dr Salmon said.

"This is a huge drain on public resources.

"Medicines are sometimes prescribed in too large quantities, or patients don't take the medications they're prescribed."

NHS Cambridgeshire estimates more than £3m of prescription medicine is wasted each year in the county.

It recently joined the Medicine campaign which aims to raise awareness of the issue.

"One of the things I often do now when I prescribe a medicine to a patient is to tell them actually how much [it] costs, if it is an expensive medication," Dr Salmon said.

"I feel patients should have to make some contribution towards the cost of every medication, because it costs the community a great deal of money to provide it."

In August, the Department of Health set up a steering group to look into the issue. It is expected to present its initial report into tackling wasted NHS medicines in early 2012.

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