NPS makes it easy to be medicinewise with top questions lists

2 February 2011

Being diagnosed with an illness can be overwhelming, and with the average doctor consultation taking just 12 minutes it’s easy to forget to ask all the right questions or know what information to share.

To help you get the most from interactions with your doctor and pharmacist, NPS has developed checklists of what you should know before starting a new medicine and things you should know about all your medicines.

A survey conducted by NPS found 60% of participants had not asked their doctor or pharmacist any questions the last time they received or purchased a medicine, while 48% had not told their doctor or pharmacist about other medicines they were taking.

“Medicines decisions should be made jointly between the individual or their carer, and the doctor or pharmacist, based on what’s best for the individual. To be actively involved in your own healthcare you need to be informed by asking the right questions and sharing the right information,” NPS clinical adviser, Dr Danielle Stowasser said.

Each year around 140,000 Australians are hospitalised due to medicine mishaps, many of which involve interactions between medicines and unwanted side-effects. These are often avoidable by being medicinewise – realising what is a medicine, knowing the active ingredient in your medicines and asking the right questions before taking a medicine.

“Knowing what is a medicine is half the battle, as many people don’t consider herbs, vitamins, creams or things that can be purchased in a supermarket like aspirin, to be medicines. If you’re seeking a therapeutic affect from it, it’s a medicine, and has the potential to interact with other medicines,” Dr Stowasser said.

Top 5 medicinewise questions to ask when thinking about starting or changing a medicine:

  • Why do I need this medicine?
  • What are my medicine and non-medicine options?
  • What are the benefits and risks of my treatment options?
  • Is this treatment option suitable for me?
  • Where can I find trusted information?

Top 5 medicinewise questions to ask when you are taking or going to take a medicine:

  • What is it for?
  • What is the active ingredient?
  • How do I take or use this medicine correctly?
  • What are the possible side effects and what can I do about them?
  • What should or shouldn’t I do while taking this medicine?

To find out more or to download a printable copy of these checklists off visit


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.