Managing pain when you take other medicines

4 March 2011

NPS MedicineWise is encouraging people with chronic conditions to speak with their doctor, pharmacist or health professional before taking over-the-counter medicines as part of a new campaign aimed at helping Australians manage pain safely and effectively.    

NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser said people taking regular medicines were at greater risk of adverse interactions.

“People suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma or arthritis most likely take medicines to treat or manage their condition. The more medicines you are taking, the greater the chance they may interact with each other to cause an adverse event. This is why it’s important people with chronic conditions always check with their doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicine, including prescription, over-the-counter and alternative or herbal.”

In addition to potential medicine interactions, people with chronic conditions need to also watch out for adverse medicine and disease interactions, called contraindications.

“If your condition affects the stomach, heart, liver or kidney or is related to your blood pressure then there are some pain medicines which could make your symptoms worse or cause harmful side-effects. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist which over-the-counter pain relief medicine is safe for you,” Dr Stowasser said.

Knowing the active ingredient in your medicines is important, particularly if you are prescribed medicines for pain relief as they may contain the same ingredients as common over-the-counter medicines.

“Sometimes people double up on pain medicines, believing it will give them greater relief. The side-effects of this can be devastating and result in conditions like stomach bleeding, kidney toxicity, or liver injury. If your current treatment plan isn’t managing your pain effectively, seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist on other options for pain management,” Dr Stowasser said.

Dr Stowasser also recommends people taking multiple medicines always keep a medicines list. A written list allows you to keep track of all the important information about your medicines, like what it’s for, what strength you take, how much you use and when you take it.

“A complicated medicines regime can be very confusing and can easily lead to mistakes. Keeping a written list, makes it easy for you to share this information with your doctor or pharmacist, who can check for potential interactions before you start any new medicine,” Dr Stowasser said.

The NPS MedicineWise campaign on Managing Pain kicks off this week with a variety of tools, information and tips for people with chronic conditions to help manage pain safely and effectively. Visit www.nps.org.au/managingpain for further details.

To download a printable medicines list free-of-charge, visit www.nps.org.au/medicineslist

ENDS

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.