By Samuel Kutty — MUSCAT: MARCH 21 - Thousands of rials worth medicines are wasted or end up in incinerator every year in the country due to surplus dosages and people visiting multiple physicians.
Experts, medics and common people, whom the Observer spoke to, contended that the only solution is prescribing the right medicines in correct dosages.
Dr Hamed al Sinawi, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, says, ‘doctor shopping’ is one of the main reasons that leads to surplus medicines reaching the patients.
“Some patients visit more than one doctor for the same ailment. Some even run to the doctor for even a mild illness, especially those who have insurance coverage. All the doctors may not write the same brand of medicines although their clinical effect and generic names are same,” says Dr Hamed.
Generic medicines are usually cheaper because of lower research and development costs, but they have the same ingredient as the branded ones.
Medicines mostly wasted are costly antibiotics — even though they are prescribed in specific quantities for a particular period of time — painkillers, paracetamol, anti-histamines and cough syrups.
Unused medicines at home means that patients are not getting the benefit that they are ought to get from their prescriptions.
It is a huge waste, Dr Hamed points out.
According to a pharmacologist, wastage occurs due to less consumption than what is prescribed and government directives on selling medicines as entire units.
“There is always a big gap between what is prescribed and what we dispense to the patients. Law requires that medicines be dispensed as entire units.The patient may not require all of that. Any attempt to do otherwise would amount to tampering, a legal violation,” says Ahmed al Hinai, a pharmacologist.
Most medicine packets are sealed and cannot be sold in individual strip.
If the patient requires only 12 tablets and the packet contains 30 tablets, there is a big wastage as the remaining tablets are not used, he points out.
“In some cases the entire course of medicine is not taken leading to wastage.”
Another reason, according to Nilesh Mehta, an insurance company official, is avoidable medical consultation even for minor ailments.
“It is often noticed that people visit doctors just because they have insurance cover. When the doctor prescribes medicines based on symptoms, they go to pharmacies and buy medicines. In most of these cases they recover in no time and whatever medicines given to them are wasted,” he said.
There are several cases where insurance companies dispute claims on drugs due to being clinically not justified, he said.
Dr Hamed says the best solution is to educate people about the value of medicines and how they will be useful to millions of people who really need it.
“Reducing unnecessary dispensing of medicines can cut wastage. Everyone involved in prescribing, dispensing or reviewing medicines have a responsibility to motivate the patients on the use and management of medicines,” says Dr Hamed.