Be medicinewise with complementary medicines

NPS MedicineWise is urging people to do their homework on complementary medicines and ensure they fully understand the risks and benefits of any complementary health products they plan to use.

In response to reports today that most complementary medicines available in Australia are not independently tested, CEO of NPS MedicineWise, Dr Lynn Weekes, says people need to know where they can go for independent and evidence-based information about their medicines.

“Complementary medicines, like herbal supplements and vitamins are increasingly popular in Australia but are often considered to be less powerful or less harmful that prescription medicines.

“In fact, less than half of people surveyed in a national census of medicines use considered certain vitamins and herbs – like multivitamins, echinacea and fish oil – to be medicines,” says Dr Weekes.

With more than half (53.2%) of medicine users surveyed using complementary therapies, and very few complementary medicines registered with the Therapeutic Goods Association, Dr Weekes says it’s vital that we know how to be medicinewise with these products.

“We have to understand that herbs, vitamins or minerals, nutritional supplements, aromatherapy products, and homeopathic or traditional Chinese remedies are all medicines. And no medicine is completely free of side effects.

“Learning more about the benefits and risks of these medicines – including how complementary therapies may interact with other medicines and food – isn’t as easy as finding information about your prescription medicines, but there a number of places you can find the information you need.

“Our website is a great place to get information to help you make informed choices about your health. You can also call the NPS Medicines Line to have questions about your medicines answered by an experienced health professional.”

Learn more about complementary medicines at

People needing information about any of their medicines should speak to their health professional or they can call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424, 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday).


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.