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With health being the centre of everyone's concerns just now, NHS Western Isles is asking everyone to think about those forgotten medicines in their cupboards.

"Does your household have any out-of-date or no longer used prescribed medications?"  If so, you’re not alone, and as part of this month’s ‘Let’s Talk Medicines’ campaign, local community pharmacists are encouraging patients to visit them to discuss repeat prescriptions and how they can return unwanted medications safely. 

Erinn Nicolson, Community Pharmacist at Stornoway’s K.J. MacDonald Pharmacy Ltd, explained “Many people will ask their local pharmacist for advice about medicines bought over the counter like common treatments for colds and flu however they often don’t realise that they can also talk to their pharmacist about any prescription medication they are taking. 

“Carers who pick up prescriptions for a member of their family can also get advice from their pharmacist if they have any questions or concerns or to make sure that the patient is taking their medicines correctly.  This is particularly important for older patients who are taking several medicines as it’s easy to get confused about how often they should be taking each one.” 

The campaign also urges islanders who may have quantities of out-of-date or no longer used prescribed medications, to ensure they adopt a safe approach in their disposal, by returning these medications to their GP Practice or local pharmacy.

Erinn added, “Binning or flushing unwanted prescribed medications can harm the local environment, cause risk to other people, and also cause household toilet/water contamination.  We also want to ensure that there is no harm or risk to others within or visiting the household – medications can be a huge safety risk for children and others who might take them.” 

Islanders are also reminded that they should only order repeat medications if they are needed and in doing so, can help play a major part in tackling the financial issue around wasted medicines. 

In fact, every year in NHS Scotland £20 million is spent on medicines waste.  The biggest problem coming from repeat prescriptions that people no longer need or use.   

Another important detail to remember is that unused medications cannot be recycled, so are not able to be reissued to another person.  Even if you never open them, once medicines have left the pharmacy, they cannot be recycled or used by anyone else. 

If you are not sure what your medicines are for, or you are worried about using them, please talk to your GP Practice, Community Pharmacist. 

Alternatively contact your GP Practice to make an appointment with the Primary Care Pharmacy team.