Health leaders across Suffolk and north east Essex are urging local people to use their supplies of medications before placing new orders.
They believe some individuals may have ordered extra medication during the pandemic – including inhalers, insulin and tablets to treat diabetes, blood pressure tablets and pain killers – over fears the coronavirus outbreak may leave them house-bound or unable to collect their medicines.
According to clinicians, many pharmacies experienced high demand for such items since the start of March. In west Suffolk, extra prescriptions for just 20 different prescribed medicines have cost an additional £240,000 during February-March. In north east Essex between February – April the increase for asthma reliever inhalers was 57% and a 20% increase in demand for insulin.
Linda Lord, Chief Pharmacist for NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said “I understand some people were being cautious. However, I would urge anyone who may have built up supplies during the outbreak to please use these first before ordering new medication.
“Ordering extra or purchasing medication that is not needed could disadvantage other patients.
“There is also a risk of shortages if ordering ahead of time disrupts the normal supply chain.
“It is dangerous to keep large amounts of medication at home because it may end up in the hands of a young child.It’s also not advised because your prescribed treatment or dose may change.”
Dr Andrew Hassan, from the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Extra ordering of medicines is placing an unnecessary burden on our primary care and community pharmacists.
“I would reassure our local communities that there really is no need for you to do anything differently with your medicines.
“If you genuinely need new prescriptions, please do order them. However if you have amassed medications during the coronavirus outbreak, please use these first.”
Carol Sampson, Head of Medicines Management at NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It is vital that the NHS uses its resources effectively to avoid waste and ensure medicines are available for all patients who need them. Patients are urged to use any stock they may have at home before requesting a new prescription. Waste is a huge issue with an estimated £300 million of unused medicines being returned for destruction each year. By ensuring any stock held at home is used patients will be helping support their local NHS.”