GPs preferred over pharmacists for new medicines questions


pharmacist with patient explaining medicines

Consumers might prefer to buy medicines in pharmacies, but they’re more likely to ask GPs about new medicines

Four out of five Australians usually buy OTC and complementary medicines from pharmacies, rather than supermarkets or online, new data shows – but more than twice as many would ask GPs as pharmacists when starting a new medicine.

NPS MedicineWise has released the results of a survey looking at the use of medicines in Australia for Be MedicineWise Week, which kicks off today.

The study showed that while 80% of consumers usually buy their OTCs and CMs from a pharmacy, 36% usually go to a supermarket, and 13% use an online Australian website.

Only 3% would buy these medicines online from an international website.

The survey also found that:

  • 77% of Australians are taking medicines (whether prescription, OTC, alternative or complementary) on a weekly basis;
  • women are more likely to be taking any medicine in a week (82% compared to 73%);
  • women are also more likely to take medicines daily (61% compared to 46%);
  • many respondents aged 50 and over are taking multiple medicines, with 28% saying they were taking five to nine medicines a week, and 13% taking 10 or more.

But the results also showed that among respondents who said they always or sometimes ask questions when starting a new medicine, 49% said they would ask a doctor, 23% said they would ask a pharmacist, and 14% said they would use an Internet search engine.

Respondents aged 35-64 years (29%) are more likely than those aged 18-34 (16%) or 65 and over (19%) to go to a pharmacist first if they have a question about a medicine.

This compares to 49% of people of all ages (41% of 18-34 year olds, 47% of 35-64 year olds and 64% of those aged 65 and over) who would go to a GP as their first port of call.

The survey also revealed that men and young people are more likely to feel too nervous or embarrassed to ask their health professional a question when they’ve been prescribed a new medicine.

“Be Medicinewise Week reminds Australians of the importance of getting into good habits with their medicines, and this includes good communication with health professionals. It’s in everyone’s interests to be better informed to help make better health decisions,” says NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes.

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