(2) what guidance he has issued to GPs on over-prescribing;
(3) what assessment he has made of the potential contribution of pharmacists in tackling the over-prescribing of medicines;
(4) whether there is a limit on the time for which any one medication is available on a patient's repeat prescription;
(5) what assessment he has made of the potential contribution of medicines packaging design to drug wastage; and what potential improvements are likely to be made.
[holding answer 26 November 2007]: The Department has not quantified the amount of medicines classified as waste in 2006 nor assessed the potential contribution of medicines packaging design to drugs wastage. However, we have recently invited organisations to submit outline proposals on how to investigate the scale, costs and causes of medicines wastage.
The Department has not issued guidance to general practitioners on over-prescribing. However, primary care trusts employ prescribing advisers, often pharmacists, to encourage and secure rational and cost-effective prescribing and provide a source of advice and support for prescribers in their area.
The new contractual framework for community pharmacy supports a range of initiatives to help patients get the most from their medicines and reduce the amount of medicines wasted. Repeat dispensing is an essential service provided by all community pharmacies in England which allows prescriptions to be dispensed in instalments. Before dispensing the next instalment, the pharmacist must check with the patient that it is still needed. Medicines use reviews, an advanced service provided by accredited pharmacists in accredited premises and locally commissioned pharmacist-led full clinical medication reviews should also help to identify medicines that may no longer be required but they may also identify additional treatments that may be appropriate.
There is no legal limit for how many times a repeat prescription can be issued for a given medication before a patient review must take place. This is a decision for the prescriber to make in conjunction with their patient.