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5 things you didn’t know about wasted drugs in Singapore

There’s unused medicine lying around somewhere in all of our houses. Sometimes we intentionally stock them for when we fall ill. Other times, we have medicine leftover from the doctor after a fast recovery from the flu. These drugs are often left unused in our houses and they sit there until they expire. Currently, the issue of wasted drugs is a growing problem in Singapore’s already-expensive healthcare system.

So join us as our experts at Pacific Prime Singapore tell you 5 things you didn’t know about wasted drugs in Singapore.

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1. The cost of wasted drugs in Singapore is staggering

Pharmacists all over Singapore agree that the cost of wasted drugs in Singapore is a growing problem. Over the past few years, more and more studies are catching the eye of experts, each shedding light to the lurking problem of wasted medicine in the Lion City.

Ms. Irene Quay, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore, stated that the cost of drug wastage detected during a pharmacist’s home visit was SGD $663 per patient on average.

“Hypothetically speaking, if a pharmacist is given the resource to visit 10 patients a week over a one-year period to perform a full reconciliation, the total potential drug savings can amount to at least SGD $329,000, with SGD $176,000 and SGD $153,000 of savings in subsidies and out-of-pocket savings, respectively,” she claimed.

Over-prescription of drugs by doctors

The key cause of wasted drugs in Singapore is over-prescription by doctors. The Pharmaceutical Society cited local data, suggesting that more than 1 in every 3 people in Singapore aged above 65 years old were taking at least one inappropriate or redundant medicine.

Furthermore, the Singapore Medical Council reported earlier this year that a doctor who was inappropriately prescribing addictive medications for several years was fined and suspended for 16 months.

For this reason, it’s important that you know how to reduce drug waste and save yourself some money when visiting a doctor or a local pharmacy.

2. Ask your doctor to prescribe medicine in installments

Collecting medicine in installments can potentially help you save a lot of money while also reducing the amount of drug waste in Singapore. Long-term drugs may need to be taken over many months or even years. When these drugs are prescribed in bulk, they are oftentimes leftovers as patients recover over the period of a year or simply stop taking the drug.

By collecting your drugs in installments, such as once every 3 months, you will be able to make decisions throughout the entire year on whether the drug is effective, whether the side-effects are too strong, and ultimately, whether you want to keep taking that same drug going forward.

3. Drugs with side-effects are not only harmful, but they’re also expensive

Hair loss, drowsiness, and vomiting are not pleasant experiences to go through when facing the side-effects of certain drugs. 15% of hospital readmissions are related to medicine use, and the chances increase with the amount of medicine an individual takes, according to the Pharmaceutical Society.

In many cases, patients need to purchase additional medicine to treat the side effects of a drug they’ve been using. This increases the amount of drug waste as well as the amount of money you’ll have to spend on drugs each year. For this reason, you may want to ask your doctor if it’s possible to prescribe medicine that has fewer adverse side effects to treat your illness.

4. There’s also a lot you can do to reduce the environmental damage from drug waste in Singapore

Various drugs, such as antibiotics and anti-cancer medicines cannot be disposed of at home. However, there are many cases where these drugs are not consumed by patients as they recover faster than expected or are simply misplaced, eventually expiring without being used. A survey conducted by the National Cancer Center Singapore (NCCS) found that the most common reason for the unused medication in households was that the health conditions of patients had resolved.

To minimize the environmental impact of wasted drugs and unintended drug exposure to children and animals, the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore recommends the following:

  1. Remove any personal data such as your name form the medicine package, container, or bag.
  2. Put the medicine in a bag and secure the bag properly.
  3. Return the medicine to a nearby pharmacy.

5. Recycling unused medicine could become a thing

The NCCS has been advocating patients to return unused medicine to pharmacies for years. Although this could help reduce the harmful environmental impacts of wasted drugs in Singapore, the returned drugs are still being disposed of without being used.

Recently, the Departments of Pharmacy of the National University of Singapore and the NCCS have been studying the feasibility of medication recycling as a solution to drug wastage in Singapore.

They studied 244 donations of unused medicine which amounted to 20,759 dosage units and found that up to 90.8% of all donations were reusable, providing a total of SGD $5,266 in cost savings. The study concluded that most donated medications were reusable and that it is feasible to practice medication recycling on a larger scale to reduce medication wastage in Singapore.

So keep your eyes out for more updates on medicine recycling, and hopefully, you will soon no longer have to throw away all your unused medicine!

Navigating Singapore’s healthcare system with Pacific Prime

With rapidly rising healthcare costs in Singapore over the past several years, it is no surprise to many that Singapore has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the Asia Pacific region.

If you’d like to know more about healthcare-related trends in Lion City, make sure to visit our blog for the latest insights and updates on all health issues you must know from deadly disease outbreaks to the newest medical technology.

As a global health insurance broker, Pacific Prime works with the best health insurance companies in Singapore to offer our clients the most cost-effective health insurance plan for their budget. These plans include individual private health insurance plans, family health insurance plans, and group health insurance plans in Singapore. For more information, feel free to contact our experts at Pacific Prime Singapore or visit our website for a no-obligation, free quote today!

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime Singapore
Phuwit is a content writer who helps inform readers on insurance-related issues through writing articles, blogs, and more. Phuwit strives to produce quality content that makes insurance easier to understand for readers.

In his free time, Phuwit enjoys reading and playing badminton. He also loves a good cup of coffee.