New survey looks at less known effects of medicines

Joint media release from NPS MedicineWise, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), Carers Australia and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA).

A new survey released today asked people what they know about the side effects of medicines.

Falls, confusion, trouble remembering and concentrating. Also dry mouth, constipation and trouble urinating. It is easy to think these are just signs of getting older. The survey of 1,045 people found that almost half (44%) didn’t know that some medicines can cause all of these effects.  Almost four in ten (39%) didn’t know taking multiple medicines can make it worse.

We sometimes call these anticholinergic (an-tee-koh-li-nur-jik) effects of medicines.

NPS MedicineWise, supported by OPAN, Carers Australia and FECCA ran the survey. They want to shine a light on medicines with these effects. It is important for people and their carers to talk about this with their doctor or pharmacist.

“Lots of common medicines can cause these effects,” says Dr Kate Annear, NPS MedicineWise medical adviser and GP.

“Some examples are medicines for depression and anxiety and allergy medicines. Also some pain medicines, medicines for Parkinson’s Disease and medicines that treat some problems with urination.

“The problem can be worse for older people as they often take more medicines. Also, your body changes as you age and this can affect the way you react to medicines.

“Studies have shown that taking too many of these medicines makes it more likely you have a fall and need to go to hospital. It also increases your chance of developing dementia,” she says.

The survey also found that almost two in three (64%) of people had never heard of a Home Medicines Review.

“A Home Medicines Review can help you get the most out of your medicines,” says Dr Annear.

“It should also be with your carer if you have one. Carers often help with managing medicines.

"Your doctor and pharmacist are part of the review. They will go through the medicines and make sure they are still needed. They may also suggest changes or different medicines.

"You can also have a medicines review in a residential aged care home," she says.

NPS MedicineWise, supported by OPAN, Carers Australia and FECCA have prepared resources to help. There are videos and information in English and other languages. They help you and your carer understand your medicine options and get ready for a medicines review.


Media contact

Bernadette Withers, NPS MedicineWise: 0419 618 365 or [email protected]