Redispensing Unused Cancer Meds Cuts Waste, Saves Money

A recent Dutch study has identified a promising strategy to reduce drug waste and save costs in cancer treatment. The study focused on redispensing unused oral anticancer drugs returned by patients to the pharmacy.


  1. Study Participants: Four Dutch hospitals with outpatient pharmacies participated in the study.
  2. Patient Population: A total of 1071 cancer patients prescribed oral anticancer drugs for home use were included.
  3. Special Packaging: Patients were provided with special packaging to return unused medication to the pharmacy.
  4. Quality Control: The pharmacy assessed the returned drugs for authenticity, appearance, remaining shelf-life, and storage temperature.
  5. Comparison: The study compared the reduction in drug waste and cost savings from redispensing drugs against the standard practice of disposal.

Study Outcomes:

  1. Drug Packages Dispensed: 13,069 oral anticancer drug packages, with an average of 27 daily doses per package, were dispensed during the study.
  2. Returns: 16% of patients (n = 171) returned 335 (2.6%) unused drug packages.
  3. Redispensing Rate: 68% of the returned packages passed quality control and were redispensed.
  4. Waste Reduction: Redispensing reduced waste by 68% compared to disposal.
  5. Cost Savings: The mean net annual cost savings per patient was €576 (US $682). For patients on targeted oral anticancer drugs for up to 24 months, savings increased to €934 (US $1019) with the quality check protocol.

Implications for Practice:

  1. Financial Sustainability: The study emphasizes the need for new strategies to enhance the financial sustainability of expensive therapies like oral anticancer drugs.
  2. Waste Minimization: Redispensing provides a waste-minimizing strategy contributing to sustainable and affordable access to drugs.
  3. Reminder System: Reminders at the pharmacy prompted drug returns, but additional strategies may be needed to maximize returns.


  1. Cost Variability: The study was conducted in the Netherlands, and cost savings might differ in countries with substantially higher drug prices, such as the United States.
  2. Incomplete Returns: Not all patients may have returned unused drugs despite reminders at the pharmacy.


  • Funding: The study was funded by ZonMw, the Dutch national organization for health research and development.
  • Conflicts of Interest: The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Conclusion: The research highlights the potential benefits of redispensing unused oral anticancer drugs, showcasing a cost-effective and waste-reducing strategy in cancer treatment. The findings underscore the importance of developing innovative approaches to enhance both financial and ecological sustainability in the context of expensive therapies.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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