Talk with patients to help them take charge: NPS

Helping patients understand that OTCs and CMs are medicines is one of several ways in which pharmacists can help improve medicines literacy amongst Australians, says NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes.

Next week NPS MedicineWise will kick off Be MedicineWise Week with a theme of, “Take Charge of Your Medicines,” and Dr Weekes is encouraging pharmacists to help spread the message.

“Pharmacists are in the perfect position to have conversations with people about their medicines – they do it every day and they know a lot about what people are taking, not just their prescription medicines, but also OTC medicines and complementary medicines,” she says.

“A recent survey we did showed that most people prefer to get their OTC medicines from a pharmacy rather than a supermarket, as the pharmacy has a more full view of what people are taking.

“It’s interesting that people would rather go somewhere where they’re getting advice.”

A recent Canstar Blue survey also showed that consumers prefer pharmacy as a source of OTCs, with 83% saying they prefer pharmacy to supermarket.

The research showed 94% of consumers trust the advice of their pharmacist.

Dr Weekes says that Dr Google is still a heavily used source of health information as consumers want to take control of their own health; however this method of obtaining information can work quite well in tandem with pharmacist advice.

“Pregnant women and women with small children in particular are actually fairly astute about looking at sites like NPS MedicineWise or the Better Health Channel, and about knowing which sites are reliable,” Dr Weekes says.

“But pharmacists can really help people who can’t work that out so easily.

“We’d love to see pharmacists having conversations about taking charge of medicines, and particularly when selling OTCs and CMs having those conversations about what else people are taking, to get that whole of medicines picture.”

Dr Weekes says that perhaps because of their wide availability in other retail channels, some consumers don’t consider some OTCs to be medicines at all.

“Some people don’t think of complementary medicines as medicines, either – or even things like inhalers.

“People don’t always think about medicines the way we might – in past surveys we’ve found that people sometimes don’t see something as a medicine when to us it might be quite obvious.

“Anything that is taken for a therapeutic reason, that has a therapeutic action, is a medicine.”

Dr Weekes encouraged pharmacists to download resources from the NPS MedicineWise website during the week and to get in touch with local media to promote the importance of talking about medicines.

“This can be particularly important in regional areas, as pharmacies will often have a relationship with local media such as talkback radio and if they get involved with that, it can really raise their profile.”

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