The Ministry of Health (MOH) has disposed of almost RM2 million worth of expired or unusable drugs and medicines over a two-year period from 2014.

Most of the medicines were returned to government pharmacies by patients under the ministry's "Return Your Medicines" (PPU) programme, said Health director-general Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Some drugs such as anti-venom drugs were rarely used but government hospitals have them in stock in case of emergencies.

"Other medicines had to be disposed as they had been damaged or spoilt due to disasters such as floods," Dr. Noor Hisham said.

The PPU programme was introduced in 2010 for patients to return their unused or excess medicines for safe disposal to be carried out by the ministry.

Initiative to reduce medicine wastage

Dr. Noor Hisham said the most common form of medicines that were returned were those used to treat diabetes, hypertension, high-cholesterol and gastritis. Patients usually have expired or unused medicines due to a change or discontinuation of treatment, he added. In other cases, patients received same medicines from multiple sources as they might have had follow-up appointments at different facilities.

This is one of the steps taken by the MOH to reduce wastage. Others include supplying patients' medicine on a monthly basis.

Patients should also be advised to inform their doctor or pharmacist if they still have the same medicine as prescribed at home so that the medicines can be topped-up instead of being given extra, said Dr. Noor Hisham.

"It is important for all parties, including patients and healthcare providers, to play their role in ensuring no wastage of medicines," he added.

Patients should also be advised to be compliant towards their medication therapy and be supported by healthcare providers if they have any issues with their medicines.

MPS president suggests co-payment of medicines

RM1.8 million worth of medicines were disposed in 2014, approximately 0.075% of the MOH's budget for that year. Last year, RM105,000 worth of medicine were thrown out.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang suggested co-payment of medicines as government hospitals giving medicines for free could be a contributing factor to high medicine wastage. He urged patients and consumers to do their best to avoid wastage.

In August, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. S. Subramaniam also urged patients to return unused or unutilised medicine - unopened or not expired medicines which are deemed safe - to clinics and hospitals to reduce wastage of medication. MIMS

Read more:
Budget 2017: An overview of its impact on Malaysian healthcare in the coming year
MOH to act against clinics and doctors’ involved in RM2 billion illegal cosmetics industry
Health Ministry responds to concerns over closing of laboratory tests in Malaysia due to lack of funds