Cwm Taf University Health Board and healthcare company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are encouraging the public to spring-clean their medicine cabinets and take all unwanted or unused medication to their local pharmacy.

And for the first time this year, ‘Complete the Cycle’ a GSK-funded inhaler recovery and recycling scheme is being offered at both local hospital and community pharmacies in the region – making it easier for patients to drop off their used inhalers to help reduce plastic waste and protect the environment.

Emma Williams, community pharmacist lead for the health board said: “It’s really important to regularly check the medicines you have at home and return any medicines that you no longer need or have gone out of date to our local pharmacy for safe disposal”.

“Returning used and unused inhalers to the pharmacy will mean that these can be recycled helping the environment and giving you the chance to speak to the pharmacist who can help with questions you may have about your medicines.

Both Complete the Cycle and the Health Board’s ‘Your Medicine, Your Health’ spring-clean campaign, give patients the opportunity to seek advice from their pharmacist on how to take control of their own health. This can be through learning good inhaler technique or participating in a medicines review to get the most out of their medicine.

Amy Matthews, pre-registration pharmacist at Sheppards Pharmacy, Rhydyfelin, said: “Identifying patients that may be over-using or under-using their inhaler therapy, which could be due to poor inhaler technique, can lead to important consultations to improve the management of their condition and enhance patient care; all within a pharmacy setting and without needing to make an appointment.”

The campaign also highlights the potential environmental impact of how we dispose of our medicines.

Research commissioned for GSK revealed that 33 per cent[i] of patients nationally, use their kerbside recycling service to dispose of their asthma inhaler, wrongly thinking that the inhaler will be recycled.

Many respiratory inhalers contain plastics and gases that are not readily recycled through existing arrangements so typically incinerated or end up in landfill. The inhaler aerosol canister can then leak harmful greenhouse gases into the air.

Robyn Miles, GSK’s Head of External Affairs in Wales said: “By taking all types of inhalers to a participating hospital pharmacy such as Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda, or to a local participating community pharmacy, the aerosol canister will be separated from the plastic components of an inhaler and any greenhouse gases will be safely collected and reused, for example in car air conditioners.

“The plastic and aluminium parts of inhalers are also recycled and used to make non-medical products such as garden furniture.”

Gareth Hughes, Professional Services Manager, Sheppards Pharmacy said: “This scheme allows pharmacy to play a role in protecting our environment by encouraging inhaler recycling, whilst also providing a unique opportunity for patient interventions, ensuring that they are making the most of their medicines.

“We will definitely be looking to roll out the scheme across more of our 33 branches.”

Emma Williams continued: “Aligning to the two schemes is a great example of how patient safety and environmental sustainability can help drive quality improvements in our own health and make economic sense.”

The ‘Your Medicines, Your Health’ spring campaign, alongside Complete the Cycle, is running across the region, helping patients get the most from their medicines and recycling our valuable resources.

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[i] GSK data on File, August 2017, ref: UK/OTH/0025/17

Local campaign targets unused medicines and incorrectly recycled inhalers
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