Learn how to take medicines safely


With more than nine million people taking prescribed medication every day, Australians are being urged to learn about correct and safe usage.

A new survey estimates that more than two million people take over-the-counter medicine daily, plus over seven million use complementary medicine. Meanwhile, more than 230,000 Australians are hospitalised every year due to problems with their medication, according to earlier research by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

“If medicines aren’t used correctly, the results can be serious,” said Dr Jeannie Yoo, medical adviser for NPS MedicineWise, which provides independent, evidence-based medical information across the nation.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to taking medicines. We’re urging people to talk to their doctors and pharmacists about their medicines, and any medicines for children or other family members they’re caring for,” Dr Woo added.

The new survey findings were released for this year's 'Be Medicinewise Week' which focuses on the information families need to know about the type of medicines they are taking, administering medicines to children, or helping other family members understand their medicines.

The YouGov Galaxy poll took data from 1,000 adults and weighted it by age, gender and region to reflect the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics population figures.

It estimated that eight million people take two or more prescribed medicines in a week.

“It doesn’t matter whether our medicines have been prescribed by a doctor or bought from a supermarket or health food store, medicines can have side-effects, and can interact with other medicines if you are taking multiple medicines,” Dr Yoo said.

NPS MedicineWise has devised five steps to help families know more about medication:

1. Ask questions to get the right information and make informed decisions. For example, how do I take the medicine, when do I take it, are there common side-effects?

2. Know it’s a medicine – they don’t just come on prescription, but can also be over-the-counter medicines from a pharmacy, supermarket or other store, as well as herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements.

3. Know the active ingredients that make your medicines work. If your pharmacist offers you an alternative brand of prescription medicine, you can then be sure it will work the same way as your usual medicine.

4. Always follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist and read the labels and packaging of your medicines carefully. For more detailed information, read the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet which is available for prescription and pharmacist-only medicines.

5. Keep track of all your medicines. Make a current list of your medicines on paper to keep with you, especially on visits to your doctor, pharmacist or the hospital. MedicineWise also has a smartphone app for this.

For more information, visit the NPS MedicineWise website.


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