July 12, 2018

As part of their work on the Residential Care Initiative, South Okanagan Similkameen division doctors began undertaking meaningful medication reviews in local facilities. The resulting changes to patients’ prescriptions caused an increase in the number of medications being returned to pharmacies for disposal—an issue physicians soon realized could be solved by a simple policy change impacting how medications are ordered during the prescribing process.

SOS doctors and pharmacists, led by local physician Dr Bob Mack, undertook an in-depth study to determine how much money was being lost through medication wastage and unnecessary packaging disposal. The study was used as the basis of an article in the July/August issue of the BC Medical Journal, entitled “Medication wastage in residential care facilities.”

By tracking discarded medications from facilities in the SOS region, Dr Mack and his team estimate that each year in BC:

  • 50,000 medication strips are returned.
  • 2.5 million pills are returned.
  • $570,000 is spent on wasted medication.
  • $70,000 is spent on wasted packaging.

The report recommends:

  • Changing the default for medication orders from STAT to Next Pouch Day, unless overridden by physician order. (The current system of placing all orders as STAT means patients’ pre-packaged medications must be returned to the pharmacy and destroyed.)
  • Creating a provincial working group of pharmacy leads to standardize medication order sheets.

Read the full article in the BC Medical Journal.