Why be medicinewise? Asking questions is key to better health Be Medicinewise week 14 - 20 October 2013

18 October 2013

This Friday, NPS MedicineWise is urging people to ask questions about their medicines by speaking to a health professional or calling the NPS Medicines Line.

The call to ask questions is the last of five daily challenges set for Australians as part of Be Medicinewise Week 2013, which has focused on the health of Australia’s ageing population. The medicinewise challenge was launched on Monday by Australian icon Bert Newton to help people make better decisions about  their health and medicines.

NPS Medicines Line Manager and pharmacist Sarah Spagnardi says asking questions is one of the best ways to avoid potentially serious problems with your medicines, but says too few people play this active role in their health care.

“In our research* with older Australians and their carers, only half of people surveyed said they regularly talk to their doctor or pharmacist about how they feel about their medicines,” says Ms Spagnardi.

“And while 75% of older people and their carers say they talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of their medicines, only one in three will discuss their non-prescription and complementary medicines.”

Ms Spagnardi says everyone involved in your health care needs to know about all the medicines you take, and there are good reasons why older Australians should always ask questions about what they’re putting into their bodies.

“Around one in three unplanned hospital admissions involving older Australians are due to problems with medicines – half of those problems could be prevented.

“Typically, we have more long-term health problems and will take more medicines when we’re older, so as we age the risk of medicine-related problems can increase.”

“Our bodies also change a lot as we age. We handle medicines differently and become more sensitive to medicines, which means there’s a greater risk of side effects and potentially harmful medicine interactions.”

Ms Spagnardi says medicine-related problems can sometimes go unrecognised because common symptoms – like confusion, tiredness or falls – are often considered ‘normal’ for older people, when they may actually be due to the medicines they are taking.

“Medicines are supposed to keep us healthy, so we tend to assume they will. But when we combine multiple medicines it’s not uncommon for things to go wrong,” she says.

“So don’t make assumptions about your health and medicines. Be medicinewise: talk to your health professionals about how you want to improve your health, and ask to have your medicines reviewed regularly.

“And if you have any questions about your prescription, over-the-counter, or complementary medicines, ask your health professional or call the NPS Medicines Line.”

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424)  . Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).

For more information Be Medicinewise Week visit www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewiseweek

or visit www.facebook.com.au/npsmedicinewise to join the conversation.

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


NPS MedicineWise online question builder tool

To help people prepare for a visit to the doctor, NPS MedicineWise has produced an easy-to-use online tool that allows you to create personalised questions to ask your doctor.

Suggested questions cover the brand name and active ingredient of any prescribed medicines; how to take the medicine; expected benefits of taking the medicine; possible side effects; and whether there are any other treatment options available.

The online tool also includes specific questions about medical scans and X-rays as well as illnesses like respiratory tract infections, including colds. It also allows people to include their own questions about specific health concerns and space to write down notes during their appointment.

After generating a personalised set of medicinewise questions, print them out so you take them along your next appointment.

The question-building tool is available free at www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/ask_the_right_questions

NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE)

We collaborate with healthdirect Australia to deliver Medicines Line, a telephone service providing consumers with information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamin and mineral) medicines.

When you call 1300 MEDICINE, you will speak with an experienced registered nurse. Your question may be answered on the spot, or you may be referred to your GP or pharmacist, or to another health professional. If you have a complex enquiry, you may be put through to an NPS pharmacist.

Call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from anywhere in Australia. Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm ADST (excluding NSW public holidays).

Information provided by NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line includes:

  • How a medicine works
  • How to take medicines
  • Side effects
  • Interactions with other medicines
  • Medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Medicines for children
  • Storage of medicines
  • How to obtain consumer medicine information (CMI) for your prescription medicines
  • Referrals to reliable services and support organisations, e.g. support organisations for people with your health condition
  • Promotion of the quality use of medicines and provision of information that is independent, evidence-based, appropriate and safe
  • Encouraging responsible use of medicines by increasing public awareness about medicines.

In addition to receiving information, callers will be encouraged to discuss the information with their own doctor or pharmacist, who are best placed to help interpret the medicines information.


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.

If you are a journalist seeking comment on a story or more information on any of our programs or campaigns please contact our media adviser Stephanie Childs on 02 8217 9249 (during office hours) or call the NPS MedicineWise media phone on 0419 618 365 (for urgent media requests outside of office hours). If your enquiry is not urgent you can also send us an email.