What Australians ask about new medicines

Nearly three-quarters of Australians who take medications regularly are not keeping a complete record of them, new data shows

The results of a YouGov Galaxy survey, released on Monday by NPS MedicineWise, shows that another 26% of people who take regular medicines only keep a list of their prescription medicines, while the remaining 43% only record some, or none, of their medicines.

The survey was released to coincide with the start of Be MedicineWise Week (19-25 August). The theme of this year’s Week is “Get to know the language of medicines”.

NPS MedicineWise highlighted that upcoming changes to prescribing are a good reason for Australians to understand what the active ingredient in their medicine is.

Active ingredient prescribing—announced in the 2018-19 Federal Budget—means most medicines will be prescribed by the active ingredient rather than the brand name. To avoid confusion, consumers are being encouraged to understand the difference and learn to recognise their medicines by the active ingredient.

NPS MedicineWise is pointing out that the same active can appear in different forms as well as different brands, and the importance of recognising an active, to avoid the risk of accidentally taking a higher than expected dose.

The new data showed that of the people who regularly take two or more medicines and do keep a list of some or all of them (316 respondents), only 22% said they record the active ingredient of the medicine.

Of those who do keep lists, 48% record the brand name, 63% record information on the dose and how and when to take the medication, and 52% record the reason for taking the medicine.

When reflecting on the last time they discussed a newly prescribed medicine with a doctor or pharmacist, people asked a lot of important questions, but most missed a lot of points:

  • Only 16% discussed what the active ingredient of the medicine was.
  • 50% discussed how much medicine they need to take each time.
  • 56% discussed when to take the medicine.
  • 48% discussed how long to take the medicine.
  • 54% asked about possible side effects.
  • 43% asked if it was safe to take with other medicines they take.
  • 30% asked if there was a cheaper brand of the medicine available.
  • 26% of people asked about the cost.

NPS MedicineWise Chief Executive Officer and pharmacist, Adjunct Associate Professor Steve Morris encouraged Australians to keep updated, full lists of their medicines.

“A medicines list needs to include medicines that have been prescribed by a health professional, as well as anything else you take for your health. This includes vitamins and herbal supplements as these are also considered medicines,” he told consumers.

“The information in a medicines list can help to reduce the risk of medicine interactions when starting a new medicine and can help your healthcare provider when they review your medicines.

“Knowing what the active ingredient is in a medicine is an important part of being medicinewise – and being safe when you take your medicines,” said Mr Morris.

“Taking more than one medicine with the same active ingredient may mean that you are accidentally taking too much of that active ingredient. This can have a number of unintended consequences such as the medicines not working as well, increased risk of side effects, and increased chance of harm.”

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