Pharmacy World & Science

, 31:664 | Cite as

Investigating unused medications in New Zealand

  • Rhiannon BraundEmail author
  • Gregory Gn
  • Robynne Matthews
Research Article


Objective The objectives of this study were to determine the reasons for returning medications unused and the types of unused medications returned based on therapeutic class. Setting: This study was conducted in a region of New Zealand covered by the Hutt Valley District Health Board. This region has approximately 51,000 households. Methods A ‘Disposal of Unwanted Medication Properly (DUMP)’ campaign was conducted for a four week period in November 2007 in the Hutt Valley DHB region. A collection bag was delivered to every household for the collection and disposal of any unused medications. Participants were instructed to return the bags to a community pharmacy. Those returning medications were also asked to complete a questionnaire to determine why the medications were not used. A sample of the returned medications was identified and quantified and every completed questionnaire was analysed. Main outcome measures: The main outcome measures included: types and quantities of medications returned, calculated costs of these medications and reasons for returns. Results Over the four week period, 1,605 bags were returned for disposal. A total of 329 bags (20%) containing a total of 1,253 items were fully analysed. Only 653 questionnaires were completed (41%) all of which were analysed. The most commonly reported reason for not using the medication was that it had passed the expiry date (26%), the second was treatment change (24%), followed by condition resolved (15%). ‘Alimentary tract & metabolism’ and ‘respiratory systems & allergies’ accounted for 21 and 20% of cost respectively. Conclusions This study found that main reasons identified for patients having unwanted medications were ‘treatment changes’ and ‘expired’. Additionally respiratory medications contributed 20% of the costs associated with unused medications.


Adherence Medication waste New Zealand 



Hutt Valley DHB and their local pharmacies for their participation.


New Zealand Pharmacy Education Research Fund for the funding of the summer studentship for GG.

Conflicts of interest statement

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PharmacyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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