Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 8th February 2019.

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Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will take steps to enable NHS pharmacies to redistribute sealed quantities of drugs that would otherwise become surplus and remain unused, for approved medical purposes (a) in the UK or (b) as part of the UK's international development programme.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department is concerned about wastage from unused medicines and is keen to minimise unnecessary extra costs. However, it does not promote the reuse of returned medicines that have left a pharmacy and returned unused by patients. This is because it is not possible to guarantee the quality of returned medicines on physical inspection alone. When medicines are returned from patients’ homes, there is no way of knowing whether the medicines have been stored or handled appropriately. Some medicines may deteriorate if, for example, left too close to a radiator, in direct sunlight or exposed to the environment.

As far as the United Kingdom’s international development programme is concerned, the World Health Organization’s ‘Guidelines for Medicines Donations’ updated in 2010 should be followed, which state that there should be no double standards in quality. If the quality of an item is unacceptable in the donor country, it is also unacceptable as a donation. The guidelines are available at the following link:;jsessionid=713DED104D92853AAAE51F04C521CAF7?sequence=1

Although it wishes to help, the Department would wish to avoid being accused of dumping unwanted or substandard items on poor and developing countries, which it does not use for patients in this country.

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