In the next three years, all prescribed medicines will come in "patient packs", mostly a month's treatment, and loose tablets will be phased out to bring Britain into line with an EU directive.
The aim is to increase patient compliance with medication, as many patients do not complete courses of medicines prescribed by their GP, and to reduce the wastage of prescribed drugs which is put at 150 tonnes a year.
The joint initiative between the Department of Health, the British Medical Association and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry will begin in December, when certain categories of drugs will be issued in patient packs, including peptic ulcer treatments, anti-virals and cholesterol- lowering drugs. Other categories of drugs will be phased in at intervals.
Dr Jane Richards, chairman of the BMA's GP prescribing committee, said: "This move will ensure that patients are getting what the doctor has requested, as until now pharmacists have dispensed many medicines from bulk containers and there has been the risk that a cheaper generic drug may be used."
An ABPI spokesman said that, under the EU directive, patients had to be given all medicines in patient packs, including details of country of origin, manufacturer's name and date of expiry, together with information on taking the medicines.
Health minister Gerry Malone will launch the Case (Compliance Assurance Safety Effectiveness) campaign on Wednesday at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in London. The ABPI spokesman said that no figures were available on the costs of medicines not used by patients, but "amnesties" by family health service authorities often produced huge quantities of unused drugs.
Studies show that patients with chronic conditions are less likely to comply with their prescribed medication. The most recent figures indicate that only one-third of patients comply fully with their medication.Reuse content