Why meds might be making you sick

More than half of Australians taking prescription medications could be failing to follow their doctor’s instructions, according to new findings from the Australian Patients Association (APA).

The survey of APA members found that even those who believed they were diligently following their doctor’s directives were putting themselves at risk.

An overwhelming 93 per cent of respondents agreed that not taking medicines as directed could cause harm, and 90 per cent were confident that they took medication correctly as prescribed at all times, yet the findings revealed complacency in consumer behaviour was widespread.

One-half of respondents admitted they had not completed their prescription as directed by their doctors and 38 per cent said they do not check whether their medicines had expired before taking them.

The APA said the findings revealed that risky practices were being pursued even by those who believed they were complying with directions.

The survey found that 78 per cent of respondents were taking two or more medications with the most common reasons being to manage chronic disease (42 per cent) or to control pain (18 per cent).

The APA’s national strategy director, Michael Riley, says the findings highlight the needs for greater consumer education.

“The survey data shows that mistakes and misuse occur even among people who are highly invested in their healthcare and go to great efforts to follow their prescription medication advice by the letter,” he says. “Seemingly harmless behaviours can have very serious consequences.

“It underlines the complexity of medication compliance and the need for continued consumer education on medication use and risks of misuse.”

A national drug strategy survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2016 found that 2.5 million Australians (12.8 per cent) misused a pharmaceutical drug at some point in their lifetime, with just under 1 in 20 (4.8 per cent) admitting to misusing a pharmaceutical drug in the previous 12 months.

Pharmacist and Victorian president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Anthony Tassone, says it is crucial to check the expiry date of any medication – especially as people commonly keep medications after stopping the original course of treatment. “Expired medicines mean that the manufacturer cannot guarantee the drug will be effective for purpose or is still as safe,” he said.

“An expired medicine may not work as well and can cause adverse effects. Pharmacies offer safe disposal of unwanted medicines which can reduce risks around this area of medicine misuse.”

Are you guilty of not checking the expiry dates on medication? Do you keep medication left over after a medical condition has improved, in case you need it later?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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