Be Medicinewise

With 57 per cent of respondents to a recent telephone survey reporting they made a mistake with their medication in the past 12 months, Be Medicinewise Week serves as a timely reminder to understand your prescription.

In July 2010, the organisation formerly known as the National Prescribing Service was renamed ‘NPS: Better choices, Better health’ (NPS). The new name — NPS: Better choices, Better health — reflects the variety of work done by the organisation, including research and education on quality use of medicines and medical tests. While NPS: Better choices, Better health is the official name, most people now just refer to the organisation as NPS.

In a survey of 1205 people undertaken on behalf of NPS, 44 per cent said they had forgotten to take a dose, and one in four had taken a medication without food when they were directed to take it with food. Other mistakes reported included taking a higher or lower dose than prescribed or accidentally taking the wrong medicine.

Released to coincide with the start of Be Medicinewise Week 2012, NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser says the results show how important it is that people pay more attention to their medicines. “It’s likely we will all make a mistake with our medicines at some point,” says Dr Stowasser. “Most of the time these mistakes will cause little harm but sometimes the consequences can be serious, or even deadly. During Be Medicinewise Week 2012 we are urging all Australians to stop, think and learn about their medicines to help avoid mishaps.”

As part of the week’s activities, NPS is launching a variety of resources and new information for consumers. Dr Stowasser says there are a few simple steps we can all take to be more Medicinewise.

Click NEXT to find out what steps you should take to Be Medicinewise.


Know it’s a medicine.

“Medicines are sold in many places, come in many forms and are used in many different ways,” says Dr Stowasser. “So when you buy a tablet, lotion or syrup from a pharmacy, supermarket or even the local convenience store, ask yourself, is this a medicine? If you’re expecting it to affect your body or your health, the answer is likely to be yes.”

Know the active ingredient of your medicine.

“The active ingredient is the chemical which makes a medicine work and its name is normally found on the label or packaging. If you’re offered a different brand of medicine with the same active ingredient, you can be confident that both of them will work the same in your body,” says Dr Stowasser. “It’s also important to know your active ingredient as it may interact with other medicines you are taking, including complementary medicines such as herbs and vitamins.”

Always follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist on how to use the medicine.

“Carefully read all labels on your medicine and the packaging. For more detailed information, consult the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine if available. And you can always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure about anything.”

Ask your health professional – such as your doctor or pharmacist – questions about your medicines.

“The more information you have, the better the decisions you will be able to make about your health and medicines,” says Dr Stowasser.

For further details on being medicinewise, visit

For more information on how to be medicine wise, read the article How safe is your prescription by Ken Lee BPharm

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