1 in 5 Australians have experienced an adverse effect from their medicine: NPS shows you how to be medicinewise

28 March 2012

New research from NPS* has found 1 in 5 Australians have experienced an adverse effect from their medicine in the past 12 months, like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fatigue.

The survey also found medicine use was almost universal, with 95% of the 1205 respondents reporting they had taken a medicine in the past 12 months. Overall 68% had taken a prescription medicine and 76% had taken an over the counter pain relief medicine. More than half (52%) had taken another over the counter medicine, such as eye drops, cold and flu tablets or nasal sprays for hay fever and 56% had taken a vitamin mineral or herbal supplement.

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser said with medicine use being so common, it’s likely some people will experience adverse effects, but sometimes these can be reduced or avoided if people take simple steps to be more medicinewise.

“With 190,000 medicine-related hospital admissions Australia every year, it’s so important for people to stop and think about what they are taking,” says Dr Stowasser.

“This is why we are urging people to be medicinewise by knowing what a medicine is, always following instructions, asking the right questions, and knowing the active ingredient of their medicine.

“These simple steps will not only help people avoid harm but will help them get the most benefit from their medicines.”

The research has been released to coincide with Be Medicinewise Week 2012, which encourages all Australians to stop, think and learn more about the medicines they are using and to ask their health professional questions.

Other interesting findings include:

  • 57% of Australians have made a mistake with their medicines in the last 12 months
  • 1 in 5 Australians have taken an out-of-date or expired medicine
  • Just under half have missed a dose of their medicine
  • 1 in 4 have taken medicine without food which were meant to be taken with food


NPS is holding an event for members of the public in Sydney’s CBD on Thursday March 29 from 7am – 3pm, with a number of different displays and activities designed to help people be more medicinewise including:

  • Activities demonstrating how to weigh your child and measure an accurate dose of medicine using a syringe and water
  • An activity to help people identify products which are or are not medicines
  • A demonstration on how to find the active ingredient, brand name and other details on giant medicine boxes
  • Pharmacists on site to answer questions on how you can be more medicinewise.

From 7.30am-9.30am GP and media personality Dr John D’Arcy will be with NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser to answer your questions about being medicinewise.

For further details regarding the event, please contact Lisa Chikarovski on (02) 8217 8645.

* This Newspoll study was conducted by telephone in March 2012 among a representative sample of n=1205 respondents aged 18+ nationally.


Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.