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Volume 405: debated on Thursday 15 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to reduce waste in prescription arrangements, with particular reference to carrying out investigations as to how patients may avoid re-ordering medicines they do not need. [112453]

We are introducing a number of measures to reduce wastage of medicines.We have set up medicines management schemes to promote better use of medicines. 106 schemes are now in operation around the country and we are aiming for all primary care trusts to have schemes by 2004. One such scheme in Coventry recently reported it might save £150,000 per year through a range of measures designed to improve the effectiveness of local prescribing. Many general practitioner (GP) practices have hands-on support to help set up repeat prescribing systems, which will help reduce the re-ordering of medicines that patients do not need.We are funding a joint task force based at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain to lead implementation of a national strategy to spread better understanding and partnerships between patients and health professionals on taking their medicines. This will promote the benefits of helping patients to take a more active role in managing their own care.We are introducing repeat dispensing, beginning with 30 "pathfinder" sites, and with the aim of having schemes in place nationwide by 2004. These will enable patients to have their medicines dispensed for up to a year by their pharmacy without having to go back to their GP. It will allow the pharmacist to check that the medicines are needed. Evidence from pilot studies has shown that repeat dispensing helps reduce waste.