It costs NHS Shetland £150,000 a year to ship medical waste south for destruction – enough to pay for four nurses.
The revelation comes as patients who take regular medication are being urged to review the medicines they take as part of a new campaign .
Every month NHS Shetland collects unused medicines returned to community pharmacies.
This has to be shipped south for destruction and each year the total cost of medicine destroyed in this way is around £150,000. Transport and destruction costs add another £10,000.
Local campaign “Let’s Talk Medicines” coincides with a national scheme encouraging people on repeat prescriptions to look again at the medicines they take and speak to their pharmacist or GP if they have any questions or concerns.
NHS Shetland’s director of pharmacy, Chris Nicolson, said: “Many people may have been taking the same repeat prescription for a while and may be unsure how effective it is or even if the medicines are still required.
“We know many patients, especially those who are taking several different medicines, may be unsure why each medicine has been prescribed or how often they should be taking it. Others may experience side effects that they are worried about or have simply stopped taking certain medicines as they no longer think they need them or have just decided they do not want to take them, but have never mentioned this to their pharmacist or GP.
“Whatever the issue we want people to know that it’s always ok to ask.”
He said many patients taking several medicines would benefit from a review.
Lerwick pharmacist Louise Morrison said: “Many people will ask their community pharmacist for advice about medicines bought over the counter like common treatments for colds and flu, however they often don’t realise that they can also talk to their pharmacist about any prescription medication they are taking.
“Carers who pick up prescriptions for a member of their family can also get advice from their pharmacist if they have any questions or concerns or to make sure that the patient is taking their medicines correctly. This is particularly important for older patients who are taking several medicines as it’s easy to get confused about how often they should be taking each one.”
The scheme encourages people to take more responsibility for the medicines they take, said medical director Roger Diggle.
He added: “This in turn will help improve the safety of patients by reducing many of the risks associated with not taking medication correctly as well as improving efficiency by reducing the number of prescriptions issued for medicines which may no longer be required.”
For more on this story, see Friday’s Shetland Times.