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Leading pharmacist calls for end to wasteful use of prescription drugs

England’s former Chief Pharmaceutical Officer will tell an audience tomorrow (Thursday, March 29) that, as a nation, we are wasting millions of pounds a year on prescription drugs.

Professor Jim Smith, now Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Policy at the University of Sunderland, will also highlight several other controversial issues that surround the pharmaceutical sector and its practice.

Prof Smith was appointed England’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer in 2001 and was in charge of implementing the Government's "Vision for Pharmacy" programme.

In his inaugural lecture at the university on Thursday, Prof Smith will explain why millions are being wasted on prescribed drugs that people are not using.

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He will argue that of the £11bn spent each year on prescription drugs a substantial proportion of that is wasted through non-compliance, often impairing the health of those people for who the drugs are meant.

Prof Smith says: “There is good evidence that people accumulate large quantities of drugs but don’t use them, wasting money that the NHS can ill afford.

“There is also evidence that non-compliance it is linked to socio economic status – which has connotations for places like Sunderland – widening the health gap.

“Every Primary Care Trust is struggling with the costs of providing health care. However, so many of these medicines are not being taken, which is leading to further health problems

“There is evidence for example that some heart attack victims, who may be prescribed up to four drugs, do not take them properly and puts them at greater risk of a second heart attack.

“It’s a major problem. Fifteen per cent of NHS spending is on prescribed drugs.

“Many people, ultimately almost all of us, rely on medicines for their wellbeing. They can be life-enhancing and, for many people, lifesaving.

“Modern medicines are the product of an unprecedented scientific, clinical and industrial enterprise in which Britain is a world leader. They are contributing significantly to the increases in life expectancy and quality of life now being seen in this country. But our attitudes to medicines are ambivalent.

“We distrust the corporations that have, so successfully, developed new medicines. Governments laud the economic success of the industry but are sometimes reluctant to meet the cost of new drugs.

“The public, influenced at times by the news media, call for government bans in response to ‘drug scares’ but, paradoxically, also press for new drugs to be introduced across the NHS before clinical and economic evaluations are complete.”

Prof Smith’s lecture will explore these issues and argue for a mature and informed approach to the medicines we take.

He has worked as a community, industrial and hospital pharmacist and has held senior posts in health authorities in the North of England and in Central Government.

He has held consultancies with a number of pharmaceutical companies and with the World Health Organisation. In 2006 he was admitted as a fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom.

Tony Kerr | alfa
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