The group will also identify how people can be better supported in taking their medicines as prescribed - helping to improve their long-term health outcomes and ensuring better value for the NHS.
On top of the £300 million lost due to medicine wastage, at least half of which is avoidable, the cost to the NHS of people not taking their medicines properly and not getting the full benefits to their health is estimated at more than £500 million a year.
Health Minister Lord Howe said: ‘We want to look at how patients can make the most of the medicines they take. This isn’t just about saving money - most importantly, it is about making sure that patients stay well and get the best outcomes from their medicines.
‘Every pound wasted is a pound that could be spent on treating patients. By reducing medicine wastage the NHS will save money that can be spent in other areas of patient care.’
The Steering Group to Improve the Use of Medicines will be made up of experts and patients’ representatives and will initially report in early 2012. The group will be jointly chaired by Robert Johnstone, a Trustee of National Voices** **and Rob Darracott, Chief Executive of Pharmacy Voice.
Rob Darracott said: ‘There are lots of good ideas around for how health professionals can provide better support for patients and the public to help them use their medicines more effectively. What the NHS needs now is a real plan for embedding those ideas in systems that historically have been more concerned with the product than the person.’
Robert Johnstone said: ‘We want to ensure patients are fully informed about their treatment options and involved as equals in a shared decision making process so that there are better decisions and improved use of medicines. Managing repeat prescribing better and providing patients with adequate and appropriate information should help to improve health outcomes and additionally reduce wastage of medicines.’
A roundtable event of of patients groups, health professionals, the NHS and industry earlier this year identified practical steps to help reduce waste, optimise medicine taking and improve health outcomes.
The report of that event, Making Best Use of Medicines, is also published today to coincide with the launch of the steering group.
The event followed the publication in November 2010 of the research report Evaluation of the scale, causes and cost of medicines wasted.