How to be medicinewise

Being medicinewise will help you ask questions about medicines and medical tests, and where to get trusted information. Having the right information will help you make better health decisions for you and those you care for.

5 steps to being medicinewise

The Medicinewise Handbook

Various medicine bottles

We all take medicines, but too often we take them for granted. Download The Medicinewise Handbook and learn how to be medicinewise.

  • Ask questions to get the information you need about medicines and make better informed decisions. Read about questions to ask.
  • Know it’s a medicine. Medicines don’t just come on prescription — they include over-the-counter medicines from a pharmacy, supermarket or other store, as well as herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements. Read more about what a medicine is.
  • Know the active ingredient. Active ingredients are what make your medicines work. If your pharmacist offers you an alternative brand of a prescription medicine you can be sure it will work the same way as your usual medicine. Learn more about the active ingredient and where to find it.
  • Always follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist and read the labels and packaging of your medicines carefully. For more detailed information, read the consumer medicine information (CMI) which is available for prescription and pharmacist-only medicines — ask your pharmacist or search for one here.
  • Keep track of all your medicines by using an NPS Medicines List. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can help you fill it in. Keep your Medicines List with you, especially on visits to your doctor, pharmacist or to the hospital.

Making wise choices

Picture of scales

Being medicinewise starts with making good choices about medicines. Sometimes it is very clear that you need a particular medicine, but at other times the decision is not so straight forward. Making wise choices about medicines will help you ask questions and work with your health professional to make the best decision for you.

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Buying medicines

Pharmacist in pharmacy

Medicine costs can add up, particularly if you take several medicines. So it’s important to know how to keep your medicine costs down without compromising your health. Also, by understanding your brand choices you'll know whether an alternative brand of your medicine is a good option for you. Learn more about being medicinewise when buying your medicines.

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Managing your medicines

Medicines List and iPhone app

Managing your medicines well will help you get the most from your medicines and avoid potentially dangerous mix-ups. Find out why knowing about the active ingredient and using a Medicines List can help you keep track of your medicines.

Find out how our Antibiotics Reminder app can help you take your antibiotics on time.

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Ages & life stages

Family - 3 generations

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to medicines — people at different ages and stages of life may need to use medicines differently. Some medicines are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but some are not. Read more about medicines, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Small mistakes can cause big problems in little bodies, so if you’re a parent or carer, find out the right way to give medicines to children.

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Side effects & interactions

Photos of medicines - tablets, etc.

All medicines have possible side effects, but not everybody will experience them. Read more about side effects and how to find the information you need to choose and use your medicines safely.
Some medicines don’t mix well together, and can cause problems such as changing how strongly a medicine works or changing its side effects. Read more about medicine interactions and how to avoid them.

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Finding good information about medicines

Woman looking for good information online

Information about medicines can come from the internet, the media, or family and friends, so it can be hard to judge which information to trust. Here are some tips for finding reliable information.

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Using complementary medicines

Scales, natural ingredients

Many people like to use complementary medicines, which include herbal and natural medicines, traditional remedies and supplements. Complementary medicines are often less powerful than prescription medicines — but they still need to be used with care. Like all medicines, they can have benefits. However, they can also have side effects, cause allergic reactions, and may interact with prescription medicines.

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Lifestyle choices for better health

Apple and dumbells

Your lifestyle can directly affect your health. Lifestyle changes may help you avoid illness or enable you to reduce the dose and/or the number of medicines that you take.

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Medicines regulation and clinical trials

Questionnaire form and pen

Before a medicine made available in Australia, it must be approved by the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Many prescription medicines are also subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Read more about medicines regulation and how decisions are made.

Some of the strongest evidence about medicines comes from clinical trials. These research studies provide information about how well medicines work and what side effects they have. Read more about what clinical trials tell us, and why they are important.

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For more information

Ask if you are unsure about something – your health professionals are there to help.

Call the NPS Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (1300 MEDICINE), for medicines information over the phone. This service is available Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST.

See also