Medicines discarded in household garbage: analysis of a pharmaceutical waste sample in Vienna
Objective To examine the types, quantities, and monetary value of drugs which are disposed of by patients of outreach pharmacists, and to describe the role of outreach pharmacists in promoting the safe disposal of drug waste and reducing medication cost. Setting An Outreach Medication Review service at a major public hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Methods Part of the service offered by outreach pharmacists in OMR at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne is to collect the medications that have expired, or are no longer needed by patients. This audit looked at all the items collected over a period of 2 months, July and August of 2008. We recorded the types of medication groups and the number of items in each of these groups. An estimate of the value of this medicinal waste was also made. Main outcome measure Measurable parameters were the number of medications collected in the various therapeutic groups, and an estimate of their monetary value. This served to provide an estimate of the total value of wasted medications. Results Medications collected fell into 11 therapeutic groups, with a total of 293 items collected. The largest number of medications belonged to the cardiovascular group. The number of patients seen was 40 patients, with each patient having an average of 7.3 items that are either expired or unnecessary. The estimated value of medicinal waste per patient is about AU$1308 annually. Conclusion Outreach pharmacists are in a good position to collect unnecessary medications, and to educate patients on the prudent use of government subsidy of medications. The economic ramification of medication disposal is significant, in terms of the cost of medications that end up not being used. Cardiovascular medications are the main group that end up being wasted, and is among the most expensive to subsidize. Further studies are needed to examine ways of minimising medication waste and reducing the cost of such wastage.