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Sunday, 14 December 2014

A complete waste of our money.

The packaging on medications increases the cost to the NHS, and generates even more profits for the pharmaceutical industry.



I have just spent the last hour, filling my pill dispensing wallet. This is a task which I carry out every two weeks, usually on alternate Sunday mornings. The reason for using a pill dispenser is that I have a significant number of various pills, which are usually taken in different combinations each day. Consequently, the possibility of taking the wrong dosage or the wrong pills, is avoided.

It never ceases to amaze me, that at the end of this exercise, I always have at least half a carrier bag full of discarded pill boxes, instruction leaflets and numerous empty sheets of seven empty slots of tinfoil or thin plastic or a combination of both, where the pill for that particular medication was housed.
In many cases the tin foil or plastic, requires a great amount of finger and thumb pressure to eject the incumbent pill. This practice is not only irritating, but it is also bloody dangerous. I, and perhaps many others, have at some time during this process, had to wander off from the task in hand to find an appropriate box of Elastoplast or some other wound dressing. In my case, one of the medications which I regularly take is Warfarin which has a tendency to make even small cuts bleed profusely.

Each time that I carry out this task, I'm always conscious of the amount of waste packaging being produced, all of which has to be gathered up and placed in a carrier bag to be disposed of with the weekly rubbish collection. I may not be alone in remembering when pills came in small brown, clear plastic bottles, usually with a white screw cap, which required an amount of fiddling to remove but usually produced a satisfactory outcome. (It is rumoured that President Richard M Nixon was never able to master this simple task with the result that many of the white caps on his medication were covered in teeth marks witnessing his usually unsuccessful attempts to open the bottle.)

Now all this additional packaging, plastic, foil, cardboard and printed material must have an associated cost. As pharmaceutical companies are not philanthropic organisations, it must be assumed that this cost over and above that of the little brown bottle with the white lid, together of course, with the medication contained therein, is passed on to the government and therefore the taxpayer (that’s us), as additional charges to the NHS. It is little wonder that the cost charged by the pharmaceutical companies, is a significant part of the NHS budget for drugs and medications. It must be possible to find ways to reduce this unnecessary packaging and at least contribute to a reduction in the annual drug costs of the NHS. It may be argued by some, that there is a health and safety issue in ensuring that pills and medications are protected from possible contamination, but there is little justification for the layers and layers of protective wrappings which add nothing to the effectiveness of the medication concerned but only reduce the cost of that medication. 
There are compelling arguments for saving on excess packaging in the pharmaceutical industry, as there are compelling arguments for saving excess packaging in the food industry which is demonstrably present on our supermarket shelves and in our waste bins every day.