Minister Kuipers of VWS is open to having unused medication returned and given to other patients. He wants to look for room for this in European regulations – which do not allow reissue – but points out that it will be a lengthy, potentially laborious process over which the Netherlands itself has no control.
The Netherlands cannot simply create an exception in European legislation, Kuipers writes in a letter to the House of Representatives about, among other things, the waste of (expensive) medication. This European regulation is intended to guarantee the quality and safety of medicines for patients and must, among other things, prevent the circulation of counterfeits.
He says it is difficult to explain that many medicines are thrown away in the light of medicine shortages and high healthcare costs. He points to a pilot by Radboud university medical center, UMC Utrecht, Sint Antonius hospital and Jeroen Bosch hospital in which more than a thousand patients returned their unused oncolytics to the hospital pharmacy. Of the 242 returned packaging, three-quarters were suitable for re-issue and the total value was 685 thousand euros. As a result of the pilot, a working group including medical specialists is now working on recommendations on how to responsibly re-issue oral oncolytics. Kuipers plans to discuss the results with the other European member states and states that attention to sustainability is ‘fortunately’ also growing in Europe.
Former general practitioner Walter Schrader welcomes the fact that Minister Kuipers wants to find room in the regulations for the reuse of unused medicines. Schrader started a petition against destroying and in favor of reusing medicines in June. He did this after he had been reprimanded by VWS and IGJ with Stichting Artsenhulp voor Ukraine for – illegally – collecting and sending unused medicines to Ukraine.
Schrader: ‘It is a turn of 180 degrees that the minister is now looking for room in the regulations and wants to do something about it, instead of just enforcing it. I am very happy with that. As doctors and pharmacists, we have enough in-house knowledge to organize the responsible reuse of medicines. At the moment, about 100 million euros worth of medicines are thrown away every year, a very large part of which could be reused, for example, in areas where humanitarian crises take place.’
On March 7, Schrader will present the petition to the House of Representatives. That is still necessary, he thinks, because ‘we have to keep exerting pressure’.