Healthcare hoarding on the rise as a third of Brits stockpile medication

21 June 2019

  • A third of Brits (33%) reveal they never get rid of left over medication
  • A quarter of UK adults admit to having not finished a course of prescribed medication
  • 1 in 7 people have taken prescription medication that wasn’t prescribed for them

Medicine cupboard image

New research today from Co-op Health reveals that we are a nation of healthcare hoarders, with over a third of Brits (33%) admitting they never get rid of left over medication and a further third (33%) confessing to having used medication past its expiry date.¹

When asked why they would resort to using old medication, almost half (48%) of Brits didn’t realise it was out of date, a quarter (25%) presumed it would still be safe to take and a tenth (13%) didn’t need it at the time they bought it. Painkillers (27%), cold and flu remedies (26%) and antiseptic (26%) were amongst those most likely to be kept past their expiry date.

Over two thirds (70%) of Brits admit that wasting medication makes them feel as though they’re draining NHS money and a further quarter (27%) feel as though it could have been given to someone else. Despite this, people are still willing to over order prescriptions and failing to complete courses of medication.

Almost a quarter (23%) of UK adults have failed to complete a course of prescribed medication, for two fifths (38%) this was down to feeling better before finishing them, a further fifth (20%) simply forgot and one in 10 were worried about the impact of taking too much.

A fifth (22%) of those who didn’t finish their medication felt the consequences, admitting they didn’t get better and had to get another prescription as a result.

Rachael Clarke, Pharmacy Superintendent at Co-op Health advises:

‘’It’s so important to take care when using medication, if you’re unsure about something always seek advice from a professional and don’t chance it. Not completing courses of prescribed medication can be detrimental not only to our own health, but also to the effectiveness of medication for others.

‘’Incomplete courses of antibiotics have become a huge issue and repercussions are undeniable. It’s incredibly common to start to feel better before the end of a prescription but that never means you should stop taking it.‘’

As a nation of recyclers, over one in seven (14%) of those surveyed have taken prescription medication that wasn’t prescribed for them. Over half (54%) said they did so because a family member or friend had given it to them, a third (32%) had taken them before so felt it would work and almost a fifth (18%) simply didn’t have time to go to their GP to pick up a prescription for themselves.

Dr Ranj, Doctor and TV presenter, commented:

“It comes as no surprise to me that we are a nation of hoarders, but we need to be much more aware when it comes to what we’re keeping in our medicine cabinets.

‘’Using expired medication, old prescriptions or even sharing medication could have serious health implications and is something that is so easily avoided. Simply learning how to correctly dispose of medication, or using something like an app to keep on top of repeat prescription orders can all help to tackle the issue.’’

As a means of helping people efficiently manage prescriptions, Co-op Health has introduced a new app. This enables people to manage their own repeat prescriptions without having to go into, or phone up, a surgery. Instead, people can choose what medication they need to order and how they want to get hold of it – whether that’s delivered to their home, work or to their local pharmacy.

Top 5 tips on tackling medical waste from Rachael Clarke, Pharmacy Superintendent at Co-op Health:
1. Always check the expiry date on medication before taking it
2. Do not share prescribed medication
3. Always finish a course of prescribed medication – even if you start to feel better before completing it
4. Order via an app to reduce the chance of you ending up with prescriptions you may not need – this way, you can manage your own repeat prescriptions in real time, ordering them as and when you need them
5. You may think you can throw it in the bin but to dispose of medication, always return it to a pharmacist


For more information contact:
Sarah Pyatt: / 07850 002 312
Emily Penkett: / 07738621201
Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @CoopUKPress

Notes to Editors
¹Research was conducted among 2,000 UK adults with ICM on behalf of Co-op Health in June 2019
A selection of high res images are available

About the Co-op
The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, health, insurance and legal services. It has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, the Co-op operates 2,600 food stores, over 1,000 funeral homes and it provides products to over 5,100 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited. It has more than 63,000 colleagues and an annual revenue of £9.5bn.