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Fewer recycled meds signal drop in over-prescription

The number of unused medicines being recycled at pharmacies is dropping, which is a positive sign that fewer superfluous prescriptions or excess medicines are being issued, a new report has said.

Cyclamed, the association in charge of collecting and disposing of unused medicines across the country, said the drop in people bringing their medicines back to the pharmacy shows that there are very likely fewer excess medicines in circulation - which, it said, was a good thing overall.

Figures show that in 2017, 11,083 tonnes of unused medicines were collected in France - a drop of 6.7% compared to 2016.

The amount of leftover and unused medicines collecting in each household has been dropping “regularly” since 2010, Cyclamed said.

The average per household today is around 614g, compared to 878g in 2010, a study by the Consumer Science & Analytics institute (CSA) found.

A statement from Cyclamed said: “In just over 10 years, the pharmaceutical consumption has not stopped dropping [despite the aging population]. We have gone from 50 boxes per year per person in 2005, to around 42 boxes in 2017.”

Overall, this drop in excess, unused and potentially superfluous medicines is caused by several factors.

These include doctors tailoring their prescriptions more closely to the individual patient; patients following their treatment plan more accurately; treatment plans that do not always include medicines; and even, Cyclamed said, “the development of alternative treatments”.

Unused medicines should always be brought back to the pharmacy, where they can be recycled to ensure that they do not become dangerous, fall into the hands of someone for whom they are not recommended, or risk damaging the environment through unsuitable disposal.

Collected medicines are usually incinerated, producing energy for industry or heating.

Cyclamed explained that in France, around 63% of unused medicines are brought back to the pharmacy, a proportion that it called “stable”.

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