Christchurch pharmacist heading to Parliament to stop unused medication ending up in landfill

A Christchurch pharmacist is heading to Parliament this week to try to stop tens of millions of dollars worth of medication ending up in landfills every year.

Puneet Saini says unused medicine should be able to be reused, saving millions of dollars and also saving lives.

Around a billion dollars worth of prescriptions head out the doors of New Zealand pharmacies every year. It's estimated around 5 percent of these end up in landfill.

Puneet Saini was propelled to do something about it after a patient returned $16,000 worth of medication they didn't need.

"So we wasted that much money and I took offence to that, and I started investigating, how can we solve this problem," he told Newshub.

Authorities told him it was illegal to do anything other than dump it.

"It's just gutwrenching that you see this amount of money just sitting and you just have to throw it out and there's nothing you can do about it," he said.

Saini has spent the past three years trying to find a solution to the problem. He wants to see a certification system to be able to reuse untouched medicines safely and put them back in the community, saving money and sometimes lives.

"If these medications are in their original container, they are still within their expiry date and we can be certain of the safety profile."

The Ministry of Health has told Saini there's nothing they can do but companies in the US are already doing it successfully.

"Since their existence, they've saved about $140 million worth of medication throughout the US and there's another company in Greece that does a similar thing," Saini said.

He's taking a petition to Parliament on Thursday with hundreds of signatures alongside support from the Royal College of GPs and the Pharmaceutical Society.

"I don't have any gains to make out of this apart from being a good citizen and a person who works in the industry where this problem is happening," Saini said.

A problem that if solved, he says will add resilience to the entire health system.