One-in-three forget to take their medicine: NPS survey

3 February 2011

New findings from a survey conducted by NPS have shed some light on exactly how Australians are using – and misusing – medicines.

Of 1500 Aussies surveyed 29% said they sometimes forget to take their medicine and while most never intentionally miss a dose (67%), take less than instructed (71%) or more than instructed (87%), NPS clinical adviser, Dr Danielle Stowasser says taking a casual approach is never a good idea.

“Every medicine you take should come with clear instructions, including things such as the maximum dose and the frequency which you can take it.  Ignoring these instructions can put your health at risk. Taking more can result in an overdose, while taking less might stop the medicine from doing its job. That’s why it’s important people ensure they always follow the instructions carefully and if they are unsure, seek further information from their health professional. ”

While most respondents said they would seek information about their medicines from health professionals, when asked if they did ask questions of their doctor or pharmacist the last time they received or purchased a medicine, most said no (60%).

“Asking the right questions about your medicines is crucial to being medicinewise and will give you the information you need to make better choices about your health,” Dr Stowasser said.

Equally important is discussing what other medicines you’re taking with your health professional before starting a new medicine. The survey found 48% of respondents did not tell their doctor or pharmacist about other medicines they were taking the last time they received or purchased a medicine.

“All medicines, including prescription, over-the-counter and alternative and herbal, have the potential to interact with other medicines so it’s important you let your doctor or pharmacist know about all the medicines you are taking before starting any new medicine,” Dr Stowasser said.

The findings have been released as part of national Be Medicinewise Week, which is the launch of a broader campaign urging consumers to pay more attention to medicines.

“We want all Australians to be actively involved in their medicines decisions, so they get the most out of them and reduce their risk of adverse events. The quality of medicine information from sources other than your health professional can be difficult to judge, and making decisions based on incorrect or misleading information can be dangerous,” Dr Stowasser said.

To help people learn more about finding credible sources of information and what to consider before starting a new medicine, NPS has developed a series of free online learning modules called Medicinewise Choices.

A key component of Medicinewise Choices is how to find and assess reliable information sources, particularly online where advice may be driven by commercial interests, out-dated or not supported by evidence.

The NPS Medicines Line is a free telephone service providing consumers with information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary/herbal medicines.

For more information visit www.nps.org.au/medicinewisechoices  or call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424).

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.