Scale of unused medicines in West Midlands putting lives at risk

More than a quarter (28%) of people in the West Midlands have returned medicines without using them, while more than a fifth (22%) have thrown them away potentially putting their health at risk and prompting a new campaign from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) featuring comedy legend Tommy Cooper.

Tommy Cooper

Tommy Cooper

The nation’s heart charity hopes anyone in the West Midlands taking medicines for heart problems or risk factor conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure will take Tommy Cooper’s catchphrase to heart, taking their medication ‘just like that’.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF said: “Thousands of people in the West Midlands could be putting their lives in danger by not taking their medicines as prescribed.

“Part of the issue is that people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure often don’t realise there’s a connection between taking their pills and reducing their risk of heart problems. We want to remind people how vital heart medicines are – even if they feel well and don’t have obvious symptoms. And we want them to know they can talk to us if they’ve got questions they can’t ask their doctor.

“Tommy Cooper famously and tragically died on stage from a heart attack. We hope his catch-phrase ‘just like that’ will prevent others suffering the same fate.”

A survey by the charity showed that nationally nearly a quarter (24%) of people with high cholesterol don’t realise it increases their risk of heart disease, while more than a third (36%) make matters worse by failing take their cholesterol lowering medication.

Figures for people with high blood pressure in the UK tell a similar story with nearly a third (29%) unaware of the link with heart disease while more than a quarter (28%) of those on blood pressure drugs said they don’t take them as prescribed.

A total of 58% of men and 61% of women in the West Midlands have high cholesterol while 30% of women and 27% of men have high blood pressure. These conditions are known as invisible killers because they don’t have symptoms but slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and make it easier for potentially deadly clots to form causing a heart attack or stroke.

Having high blood pressure doubles your risk of having a heart attack, while having high cholesterol, triples your risk. It’s estimated that 45% of heart attacks in Western Europe are caused by high cholesterol while 22% are caused by high blood pressure.

As part of the campaign, radio adverts featuring recordings of Tommy Cooper will air on national and local radio stations, while his face and famous catchphrase ‘just like that’ will be used on leaflets in magazines and dropped through letterboxes.

The BHF is asking anyone struggling with their medication to phone their friendly, qualified nurses for support and information via the Heart Helpline on 0300 333 1 333 or visit