Forty per cent of patients are squandering prescribed medicines, a survey of doctors said today.
Young people aged between 13 to 29 are the biggest culprits, just ahead of the elderly, according to 1,000 GPs questioned for the Norwich Union Healthcare survey.
Twenty five per cent of GPs said non-compliance to treatment was most likely when patients believe they are better before finishing a prescription.
But 61 per cent of the GPs said this contributed to a patient’s long-term sickness and a similar number said it increased the burden on the NHS.
One GP blamed the statistics on moves by patients to take more healthcare decisions into their ‘own hands’.
Dr Ann Robinson said: ‘One of the reasons for this wastage is that many patients now prefer to take their health into their own hands and decide when and how to use the drugs they have been prescribed.
‘What’s more, tough targets mean less time with patients and less focus on educating them about what’s best for their wellbeing.
‘I believe that these days much of the waste also occurs because the doctor has not spent enough time with the patient and hasn’t fully understood their needs and concerns.’
Doctors estimated that 36 per cent of patients now self-diagnose ahead of appointments, with 77 per cent agreeing that online surgeries could undermine the traditional doctor-patient relationship.
Twenty one per cent even said patients should be financially penalised for not completing a treatment.
Dr Doug Wright, clinical spokesperson for Norwich Union Healthcare, said: ‘This is not just a case of money wastage; by not complying with treatments, patients risk making their condition worse and incurring more health problems.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We fully agree that wastage needs to be reduced as much as possible.
‘Our approach, via the development of medicines management schemes and repeat dispensing, is to help patients get the most from their medicines while at the same time reducing waste.’