Medicine cabinets opened to scrutiny

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The Independent Online
THE CONTENTS of 2,000 bathroom cabinets are to be scrutinised by researchers to discover what quantity of prescription drugs and medicines goes to waste - and why, writes Celia Hall.

The Department of Health's new bathroom squads will begin their work in June against a suspicion that millions of pounds of public money is being spent on pills that never get taken.

Households will be selected at random and asked to take part in the exercise. The hapless hoarders who agree to open up their bathroom cupboards will then be asked to recall why they did not take their drugs or finish the courses of treatment.

Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health, who announced details of the campaign yesterday, said officials did not know how much was wasted, but it could run into 'tens of millions'.

He said information from local 'dump' campaigns - when people are encouraged to take unused drugs to pharmacists so they can be destroyed - suggests that 150 tons of prescription drugs are thrown away each year.