People should be given more of a say over the prescription drugs they receive, according to Scotland’s Health Secretary.
Jeane Freeman told a Holyrood inquiry into the demand and supply of medicine that a Scotland-wide policy giving patients more control could help reduce waste.
Using an example of a hospital stay when her medicine was taken away only to be replaced with new packets on discharge, Ms Freeman told the Health Committee she wants all NHS boards to allow individuals to “manage their medication, subject to risk assessment”.
“I went into hospital with my own medicine, they took them off me,” she said
“Then when I left, they gave me a brand-new prescription.
“People perceive that, understandably, as waste.”
Explaining how each health board has individual policies on this area, she added: “What boards should be doing is allowing patients to manage their own medicines, subject to a risk assessment.
“What we are now looking to do is ensure that we have that policy across all our boards so patients are all treated in the same way.”
NHS Scotland spent £1.7 billion on medicine in 2018-19, Ms Freeman told MSPs, a slight decrease of £6 million on the previous year.
She said: “They are the most common intervention in our healthcare system so it is important that we get the most from medicines for both patients and the NHS.
“This is increasingly becoming more important as the health and social care sector treats and cares for more people in our society with an ageing population, living longer with multiple, long-term conditions.
“In the face of these challenges, the NHS in Scotland tries to ensure that we deliver the best value for money on the medicines purchased.
Ms Freeman also said scientists are “actively testing” whether existing drugs could be used in the fight to prevent or treat coronavirus.
When asked about whether she feared any impact from post-Brexit trade negotiations, she responded it was “too early to say”.
It came after reports American pharmaceutical companies wanted to reduce the length of drug patents as part of trade talks.
Ms Freeman said: “At this point it is very difficult to judge whether any particular trade deal with any other country would have a serious cost implication for us.
“Medicine is a huge part of what we spend our NHS budget on and we keep striving to get the best value for money.”
Rose Marie Parr, Scotland’s chief pharmaceutical officer, pointed out many rules and powers over medical drug legislation are not devolved but said it was “important” for pharmaceutical companies to have patents over drugs to encourage research and development.