Advantages and disadvantages of combination medicines

While combination medicines have some advantages, they also have some disadvantages you should be aware of.

It is a good idea to talk with your doctor to work out whether or not a combination medicine is a good option for you.

Advantages of combination medicines

Convenience

Combination medicines can be more convenient than taking the medicines as separate tablets.

Lower price

Combination medicines are usually less expensive than buying the medicines individually.

Disadvantages of combination medicines

Side effects or interactions

If you experience a side effect or interaction while taking a combination medicine, it can be difficult to work out which active ingredient has caused it.

Adjusting your dose

If you need to adjust the dose of one of the active ingredients, it can be more complicated than if you were taking the individual medicines as separate tablets.

For example, with some individual medicines your doctor can adjust the dose by asking you to take half a tablet or two tablets instead of one. But with a combination medicine, you will need a new prescription if you need to change the dose of one active ingredient but not the other.

Accidental double-dosing

There is a risk of accidentally double-dosing. This can happen if you take one of the single medicines the combination was meant to replace, plus the combination medicine.

If you do accidentally double-dose, you may experience side effects because you have taken more than you were supposed to. This may be more of a risk if you are already taking several medicines.

If you are worried about getting confused with taking a combination medicine, talk to your doctor, it may be better for you to continue taking the individual medicines only.

Watch a series of videos on combination medicines by Professor Gillian Shenfield, clinical pharmacologist, on the NPS MedicineWise YouTube channel to find out more about:

  • the pros and cons of combination medicines
  • how to manage combination medicines that treat different conditions
  • simple ways to avoid mishaps with combination medicines.

Tips for using combination medicines safely

Try the individual medicines first

Your doctor may recommend that you start by taking each of the medicines separately. This way, you can see how well each medicine works for you. Once you are used to the individual medicines, and know which dose works for you, then you can be more confident about taking those medicines as a combination medicine.

Keep a medicines list

Keep an up-to-date list of all your medicines that shows important information, such as the active ingredients and the brand names. This way you can see what active ingredients are in any combination medicines you take, and avoid doubling up.

Read more about why it’s important to keep a medicines list, and choose the NPS MedicineWise Medicines List format that suits you.

Take unwanted medicines to a pharmacy for disposal

If you start taking a combination medicine, make sure you know which medicines it replaces, and take all unused medicines to your pharmacy for safe disposal. This will help prevent accidental double-dosing.

For more information