Side effects: don’t play the lead in your own medicines horror story

For most people, the experience of side effects and medicines interactions won’t play out like a Hollywood psychological thriller, but your next adverse medicine event might still see you starring in horror story of your own.

With Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller Side Effects released in Australian cinemas today, NPS MedicineWise is urging people to consider the every-day cost of adverse medicine events (AMEs) and know what to do if they experience an unwanted side effect or medicine interaction.

“All medicines carry the risk of possible side effect. Not everybody will experience them, and they aren’t always a bad thing, but sometimes medicines will have unexpected and undesirable side effects,” says Dr Lynn Weekes, CEO of NPS MedicineWise.

“It’s estimated that 1.5 million people will experience an adverse medicines event each year in Australia and hospitals will see about 190,000 admissions per year a result. These admissions come at a high cost to the individual and cost to the community comes in at around $660 million annually.

“Understanding the potential side effects of your medicines, and talking to your doctor or pharmacist about the the risks and benefits of your treatment options is one very important way you can avoid these costly events.”

NPS MedicineWise says a good starting point is the consumer medicine information (CMI) that must be produced for all prescription and some non-prescription medicines. The CMI describes common and important side effects that are known from clinical trials and from ongoing monitoring by health professionals.

“It can be daunting to see all the potential side effects listed for a medicine but you may find it helpful to read the CMI and then discuss any concerns with your health professional before you start taking a medicine.”

“For most medicines serious side effects are less common, but even side effects that might not be considered ‘serious’ can affect your ability to tolerate a medicine.

“If you think that your medicine is causing a problem and you’re worried about using it, report it. Early detection can reduce the impact of side effects, and reporting helps to build a more accurate picture of the side effects caused by a medicine.”

“Reporting unwanted side effects or adverse medicine interactions helps you, and it helps others,” says Dr Weekes.

To report suspected adverse events from medicines, people can call the Adverse Medicines Events (AME) line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Mon–Fri, 9am–5pm AEST).

AME Line pharmacists can help to identify if an individual’s experience is related to their medicines, and will discuss the options available to them. Medicine-related side effects are reported to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for assessment, and contribute to improving medicines safety in Australia.

To download a CMI from the NPS MedicineWise website visit

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).


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.

Media enquiries: Erin Jardine on 02 8217 8733, 0419 618 365 or