Follow instructions to avoid harmful medicine mistakes - Be Medicinewise week 14 - 20 October 2013

17 October 2013

On day four of Be Medicinewise Week 2013, NPS MedicineWise is urging people to check the instructions for all their medicines and make sure they are taking them the right way.

The call comes as part of the week’s national medicinewise challenge which was launched on Monday by Australian icon Bert Newton.

This year, Be Medicinewise Week is focused on the health of Australia’s ageing population, and clinical advisor at NPS MedicineWise, Dr Andrew Boyden, says Thursday’s challenge is particularly important for older Australians.

“In our new research* with older Australians and their carers, we found that around one in four older people have problems remembering to take some of their medicines; and one in three people don’t always read the labels on their medicines,” says Dr Boyden.

“Following instructions is crucial. Taking medicines at the right time, in the correct dose; not taking certain medicines together; and other instructions - like taking medicines with food - helps to keep us safe and healthy.

“But following instructions isn’t always easy. This is particularly true as we get older and start to take several different medicines, each with different doses, and often, each taken at different times of day.

“And if your hearing, eyesight or memory is affected, it can be difficult to keep track of the instructions written on your medicines or given to you by a health professional.

“Mistakes with your medicines have the real potential to cause you serious harm, so it’s important that you have the information and support you need to follow instructions carefully.”

According to Dr Boyden, the consumer medicine information (CMI) is a valuable source of information about prescription and pharmacist-only medicines, but only 45% of older people always read the CMI when they start a new medicine. You can search for the CMI for your medicines at or ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy.

Dr Boyden suggests that if you, or someone you care for, has trouble reading the instructions on medicine labels, you can ask your pharmacist for the same information on a separate sheet in large print.

“You can also ask your pharmacist about getting a medication organiser – like a dosette box – to help you take your medicines the right way,” he says.

“It can be easier to follow instructions if you set a reminder on your alarm clock or phone; take your medicines as part of a daily routine – like brushing your teeth; or ask someone to remind you about your medicines.

“And if you find you’re still having difficulty following the instructions for all your medicines, or you care for somebody who is, ask your doctor or pharmacist about a medicines review.

“Being an active partner in your medicines management is one of the best things you can do to be medicinewise and stay healthy.”

For more information Be Medicinewise Week visit

or visit to join the conversation.

*Survey of 796 older Australians or their carers conducted for NPS MedicineWise by UMR Research in July/August 2013


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

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