An analysis of returned medicines in primary care

Chris A. Langley*, John F. Marriott, Adam J. Mackridge, Richard Daniszewski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The number of pharmaceutical items issued on prescription is continually rising and contributing to spiralling healthcare costs. Although there is some data highlighting the quantity, in terms of weight of medicines returned specifically to community pharmacies, little is known about the specific details of such returns or other destinations for wasted medications. This pilot study has been designed to investigate the types and amounts of medicines returned to both general practices (GPs) and associated local community pharmacies determining the reasons why these medicines have been returned. Method: The study was conducted in eight community pharmacies and five GP surgeries within East Birmingham over a 4-week period. Main outcome Measure: Reason for return and details of returned medication. Results: A total of 114 returns were made during the study: 24 (21.1) to GP surgeries and 90 (78.9) to community pharmacies. The total returns comprised 340 items, of which 42 (12.4) were returned to GPs and 298 (87.6) to pharmacies, with the mean number of items per return being 1.8 and 3.3, respectively. Half of the returns in the study were attributed to the doctor changing or stopping the medicine; 23.7 of returns were recorded as excess supplies or clearout often associated with patients' death and 3.5 of returns were related to adverse drug reactions. Cardiovascular drugs were most commonly returned, amounting to 28.5 of the total drugs returned during the study. Conclusions: The results from this pilot study indicate that unused medicines impose a significant financial burden on the National Health Service as well as a social burden on the United Kingdom population. Further studies are examining the precise nature of returned medicines and possible solutions to these issues. © Springer 2005.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-299
Number of pages4
JournalPharmacy World and Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005

Bibliographical note

The original publication is available at


  • community pharmacy
  • general practitioners
  • medicine waste
  • prescribing costs
  • primary care
  • returned medicines
  • United Kingdom
  • waste


Dive into the research topics of 'An analysis of returned medicines in primary care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this