International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 873–881 | Cite as

A systematic review of the literature on ‘medication wastage’: an exploration of causative factors and effect of interventions

  • Lorna Marie WestEmail author
  • Lesley Diack
  • Maria Cordina
  • Derek Stewart
Review Article


Introduction Reducing any wastage, including that of medications, is a paramount objective in promoting appropriate utilisation of finite resources. The objective was to systematically review the published literature, the possible causative factors associated with medication wastage and the effectiveness of any interventions to reduce wastage. Method A systematic review of studies published in English was identified from the following databases: Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Embase, Medline, PubMed, Science Citation Index and The Cochrane Library. Data extraction and critical appraisal was undertaken independently by two researchers. Results and discussion Title, abstract and full paper screening reduced the 14,157 studies to 42. A general definition of medication wastage was reported in one paper only. ‘Medication changed’, ‘patient death’, ‘resolution of patient’s condition’ and ‘expired medications’ were most commonly cited reasons for wastage. Only two studies were identified reporting wastage as a research outcome measure following intervention. Conclusion The systematic review has identified a limited literature on medication wastage with a lack of consistency of terms. There is a paucity of robust research focusing on the impact of healthcare interventions on outcomes around medication wastage.


Medication Medication wastage Systematic review Wastage 



Reporting of this systematic review is based, where appropriate and relevant, on the PRISMA statement 2009, which details the ‘Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews (and Meta-analysis)’.


This systematic review will form part of Lorna Marie West’s submission for PhD. The research work carried out, is partially funded by the Malta Government Scholarship Scheme.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The scholarship had no influence on study design, conduction, analysis, interpretation or writing of this article.


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Copyright information

© Koninklijke Nederlandse Maatschappij ter bevordering der Pharmacie 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorna Marie West
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lesley Diack
    • 1
  • Maria Cordina
    • 2
  • Derek Stewart
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Health and Social Care, School of Pharmacy and Life SciencesRobert Gordon UniversityAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine and SurgeryUniversity of MaltaMsidaMalta

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