D4 Combating drug waste in health care systems

Tuesday 30 August 2016
Hilton Buenos Aires : Atlantico A & B, 1.5 hours

Organised by the FIP Health and Medicines Information Section



 Drug wastage is perceived as a serious problem. It remains an issue that has not been fully addressed and continues to affect the sustainability of health care and put pressure on the health care system. The economic value of unused drugs has been reported to be in the range of 2.3-4.2% of total costs spent on drugs. It is, therefore, important to investigate possible ways to reduce unnecessary health expenditure, one of them being reuse of returned, unused drugs.

Drugs can be returned without their original packaging, or in opened and/or damaged packaging. In addition, drugs returned to the pharmacy might have passed their expiry date. However, only unused drugs that fulfill quality criteria could theoretically be reused (e.g. re-dispensed to other patients). In the USA, at least 38 states have already created prescription drug recycling, repository or redistribution programmes for unused drugs. In England, although the current rules governing dispensed but unopened drugs prohibit the reuse of drugs, the National Health Service recently started exploring whether it is possible for drugs to be safely returned to pharmacies for reuse. The public has also expressed positive attitudes towards re-dispensing returned, unused drugs, provided that their quality and safety can be guaranteed.

This interactive session will focus on discussing ways to reduce waste in health care and specifically the option of re-dispensing unused medicines returned to the pharmacies. Various aspects will be discussed such as patients’ and stakeholders’ views on re-dispensing unused medicines and product quality.

Learning objectives

At the conclusion of this knowledge-based session, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the various stakeholders
  2. Identify their interests and acknowledge the different points of view of the various stakeholders involved in discussing possible safe re-dispensing of unused drugs
  3. Distinguish various international initiatives on combating drug wastage and establish a platform for exchange of best practices
  4. Describe the aspects that should be taken into consideration for safe re-dispensing of unused drugs returned to the pharmacy. 


Helga Gardarsdottir (University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands)



1)      The Dutch “Wastage in health care”

Helga Gardarsdottir (University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands)


2)      Drug recycling systems 

Maria del Rosario Gómez (Banco de Medicamentos, Colombia)


3)      Patient perspective on reuse of medicines returned unused to the pharmacy

Kawaldip Sehmi (International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations, UK)