Almost £3m worth of waste medication was incinerated in Cumbria last year, according to the region’s NHS trust.
Categorised separately from hazardous medical waste, the region generated 13.6 tonnes or £2.8m of out of date or unused medicine, which was returned to pharmacies by the public in 2009.
The unused medication is then collected by a specially licensed company to retrieve prescription and controlled medicines from pharmacies on a regular basis, and incinerates them in a central location.
Cumbria GP Dr Peter Weaving said: “Around nine in ten prescriptions in the county are issued free of charge. But even people who do pay for the £7.20 charge, are often hardly scratching the surface in terms of the real cost, which can run into hundreds of pounds per prescription.
“Although the NHS is not seeing the drastic funding reductions that other public sector agencies face, we do need to be as efficient as we can be and wasting money like this is simply not acceptable.”
According to Cumbria NHS trust, the money spent on unneeded prescriptions in the region is the equivalent to salaries of 140 nurses a year.