Greeks spend more than 6 billion euros a year on medicine but the country has no system to dispose of expired drugs safely, pharmacists warned yesterday, as they called for such a program to be set up. The use of medicines in Greece is one of the highest in Europe and has gone up by 10 percent over the last year. Greeks spent a total of 6.12 billion euros on drugs last year – 4.5 billion euros of that was spent at pharmacies. Speaking to Kathimerini, the vice president of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Technology, Giorgos Kioses, proposed that a system be devised so people do not have to throw out expired drugs with the rest of their household waste. «At present, we throw them in the rubbish and they end up in landfills, contaminating the earth and the water table,» said Kioses. «This issue should concern us and we have to find a way to deal with it.» Kioses pointed out that a process was set up four years ago so that drugstores could safely dispose of drugs that are near their expiry date. Under the scheme, pharmacies collect any drugs that are due to expire over the next six months and return them to the pharmaceutical companies. The drug firms then bury the drugs in special containers so they do not come into contact with the earth, or incinerate them. Kioses suggested that certain points, possibly drugstores themselves, should be designated to accept expired drugs that are returned by consumers. The pharmacies could then ensure that these drugs follow the same process as those returned by drugstores, according to Kioses’s plan. He further suggests that households be offered financial incentives, possibly a discount on municipal taxes, to take part in the scheme. Kioses added that consumers should also be made aware how medicines should best be stored in their homes, underlining that keeping them in bathrooms or kitchens is not necessarily suitable because humidity and heat can affect the drugs.