57% of Australians make mistakes with their medicines: Be Medicinewise Week 2012

26 March 2012

New research* from NPS has found that 57% of Australians report they have made a mistake with their medicines in the past 12 months.

In a survey of 1205 people, 44% said they had forgotten to take a dose, and 1 in 4 had taken a medication without food when they were directed to take it with food.

Other mistakes reported included taking a higher or lower dose than prescribed or accidentally taking the wrong medicine.

Released to coincide with the start of Be Medicinewise Week 2012, NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says the results show how important it is that people pay more attention to their medicines.

“It’s likely we will all make a mistake with our medicines at some point,” says Dr Stowasser.

“Most of the time these mistakes will cause little harm but sometimes the consequences can be serious, or even deadly. During Be Medicinewise Week 2012 we are urging all Australians to stop, think and learn about their medicines to help avoid mishaps.”

As part of the week’s activities NPS is launching a variety of resources and new information for consumers, including the ‘Medicinewise Challenge’ — a quick 5-question quiz that delves into some crucial things people need to know about medicines. All participants will go into a random draw with three winners selected to win an iPad.

Dr Stowasser says there are a few simple steps we can all take to be more medicinewise:

Know it’s a medicine.

“Medicines are sold in many places, come in many forms and are used in many different ways,” says Dr Stowasser. “So when you buy a tablet, lotion or syrup from a pharmacy, supermarket or even the local convenience store ask yourself, is this a medicine? If you’re expecting it to affect your body or your health, the answer is likely to be yes.”

Know the active ingredient of your medicine.

“The active ingredient is the chemical which makes a medicine work and its name is normally found on the label or packaging. If you’re offered a different brand of medicine with the same active ingredient you can be confident that both of them will work the same in your body,” says Dr Stowasser. “It’s also important to know your active ingredient as it may interact with other medicines you are taking, including complementary medicines such as herbs and vitamins.”

Always follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist on how to use the medicine.

“Carefully read all labels on your medicine and the packaging. For more detailed information, consult the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine if available. And you can always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about anything.”

Ask your health professional – such as your doctor or pharmacist – questions about your medicines.

“The more information you have, the better the decisions you will be able to make about your health and medicines,” says Dr Stowasser.

Be Medicinewise Week 2012 runs from March 26 - 31. For further details on being medicinewise, visit www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise

To take the Medicinewise Challenge and go into the draw to win an iPad, visit www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/medicinewisechallenge or check out NPS Medicinewise on Facebook.

* 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.