October 8, 2015

NPS MedicineWise Organises ‘Be Medicinewise Week’

The fifth annual Be Medicinewise Week will be held on 12 – 18 October to promote the safe and wise use of medicines.

“One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to your medicines, and people will use medicines differently at various times in their lives,” says Dr Andrew Boyden, GP and Clinical Adviser at NPS MedicineWise. “This Be Medicinewise Week, NPS MedicineWise is reminding Australians about the importance of being medicinewise at all ages and life stages.”

Be Medicinewise: When medicines are part of your life Most of us take medicines, but too often we take them for granted. When medicines become a part of everyday life, it is time to become ‘medicinewise’. This involves managing your medicines to ensure you take them safely and wisely.

Medicines work wonders on our bodies, but when balancing work, family and social commitments, it can be challenging to maintain a complicated medicine schedule. The good news is that a little organisation goes a long way to help you manage your medicines.

Here are five tips to help you be medicinewise when medicines are a part of your everyday life.

1. Take your medicines as directed

Medicines can come in many shapes and sizes such as tablets, liquids, patches, injections or inhalations. How much (the dose) and for how long (the duration) a medicine is needed can vary greatly between individuals. Some medicines might be a one-off treatment, while others may need to be taken on an ongoing basis. For some conditions, medicines may be taken throughout a person’s life.

There are reasons why following direction is important says Dr Boyden, “Taking a medicine incorrectly could mean you end up with too little or too much of the medicine in your body. You either may not get the full benefit, or you increase your risk of side effects and medicine errors.”

Seek clear instructions from your doctor or pharmacist about how to take your medicine correctly. If you are taking multiple medicines, it’s important your healthcare team knows and you stick to the recommended medicine regime.

2. Don’t suddenly stop taking your medicines

People sometimes stop taking a prescription medicine without talking to their doctor first, or even against their doctor’s advice. This can be dangerous. If you have concerns about your medicine or think you don’t need to keep taking it, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor before making a decision.

For example, COPD is one of the most common chronic conditions in Australia and non-adherence to medicines contributes to poor COPD control.

Dr Boyden says, “Don’t stop or change how you take your medicines without getting advice from a health professional first, as COPD medicines need to be taken on a regular, ongoing basis to keep well and reduce exacerbations, even when you are feeling well.”

3. Get to know your medicines

It’s important to familiarise yourself with your medicines – this will help you understand possible side effects and reduce the risk of interactions with other medicines or particular foods. Get to know your medicines by learning the active ingredients, reading the consumer medicine information leaflets and remembering what the medicine looks like and why you’re taking it. Sometimes it can take a while to adjust to a new medicine, so make sure you discuss any concerns with your health professional.

Organise your medicines so you remember when and how to take them. The free MedicineList+ smartphone app helps you keep an up-to-date medicines list and set reminders to take medicines at the right time. For more information or to download the app visit www.nps.org.au/topics/how-to-be-medicinewise/managing-your-medicines/medicines-list/medicinelist-smartphone-app

4. Give old medicines the boot

It’s no surprise that many Australians keep multiple medicines at home. Saving them for a rainy day is not always safe. Regularly review your medicine cabinet and always check the expiry date. Most medicines will slowly deteriorate over time, which can make them less effective and potentially harmful. You can return out-of-date or unused medicines to a pharmacy for safe disposal.

5. Communication is important

Medicines don’t just come on prescription – they include over-the-counter medicines from a pharmacy or other store, as well as herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements. It’s important to tell your doctor or pharmacist about all the medicines you take to avoid risky interactions.

Complementary medicines are readily available and often self-prescribed so people may not always think
to tell a health professional they’re taking them which can be problematic. “Herbal, natural and alternative medicines can interact with your prescription or pharmacy medicines,” says Dr Boyden. “Always include these on your list of current medicines and share this information with your health professionals.”

To learn more about Be Medicinewise Week, visit www.nps.org.au/be-medicinewise-week. If you have questions about your medicines, call the NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (mobiles may cost more), Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).