Thousands of euro worth of unused, still sealed medicine will be destroyed by the Health authorities after they were collected by patients and then returned, unused.

Standing before a long boardroom table covered and almost overflowing with new medicine boxes, Health Minister Joe Cassar said there were around 80 different types of medicine worth around €10,000 just on the table.

Hundreds more boxes had been collected, he said.

Dr Cassar said the boxes had been returned by members of the public in the past three months out of good will in the belief that they could be reused. However this was likely to be only the tip of the iceberg, since many people kept unused medicine at home.

The health authorities could not redistribute these medicines as they were not sure how they were stored at home, he said.

The minister urged people to act responsibly and to keep in mind that although  medicines were given to them free of charge, they were an investment by the government.

Some €69 million are spent on free medicines every year - equivalent to €170 per person.

The government recently increased the list of free medicines to 1,334.

Dr Cassar said many people feared that if they did not pick up all the free medicines they were entitled to, they would lose their entitlement on schedule 5, also known as il-karta s-safra. This, he said, was not the case.

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