As hospitals across the West struggle with debts, and A&E departments continue to fall short of government targets, ITV News can reveal tens of millions of pounds is being spent every year on medicines which are thrown away.
Hundreds of tonnes of prescribed drugs end up being incinerated, whilst an unknown quantity is flushed down the drain or added to landfill.
In Bristol alone, 10 tonnes of community pharmaceutical waste (i.e. from pharmacies and GP surgeries) is processed every day. Most of this is prescription medication that patients have returned either partially-used, or not opened at all. This tonnage does not include all the wasted medicines that are simply thrown away at home.
There is no option to recycle medicines: as soon as a medicine leaves the pharmacy, it cannot legally be given to another patient. Many of the medicines we found in the yellow bins were brand new with unbroken seals.
One GP we spoke to blames the repeat prescription system for the problem, a system which allows drug companies to make large profits:
Local NHS clinical commissioning groups are urging patients to check what medicines they have at home before they order more, and to cancel repeat prescriptions if they are not happy with their medication or no longer need it.