NPS Media Release – 1. Hypertension Day 2. Flu Vaccine Choices

15 MAY 2015

The theme of this year’s World Hypertension Day on 17 May 2015 is ‘know your numbers’. NPS MedicineWise encourages Australians with high blood pressure to take an active interest in monitoring and managing their condition by getting into the habit of knowing their numbers.

One in 3 Australian adults have high blood pressure and it is the most frequently managed chronic problem by Australian doctors in general practice. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is a condition that increases your chances of developing serious health problems like stroke, heart and kidney disease. A recent survey* revealed many Australians are unaware of the serious health risks associated with high blood pressure. One in 3 surveyed Australians were unaware of the link between high blood pressure and heart attack, heart failure and heart disease. Similarly, 1 in 3 of those surveyed were unaware of the link between high blood pressure and having a stroke. And 96% of surveyed Australians didn’t know there was a link between high blood pressure and kidney disease.

NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says, “Australians with high blood pressure need to be aware of the health risks associated with the condition and the importance of identifying and managing it to reduce these risks.

“Monitoring and recording blood pressure can help people better understand and manage their condition.  Sometimes measurements need to occur outside of clinic appointments. So your doctor may recommend the use of a home blood pressure measurement device or that you undergo ambulatory blood pressure monitoring over a 24 hour period.

“It is also important for people to have a good understanding of their blood pressure medicines and how these should be taken. Therefore keeping a medicines list handy and up-to-date is recommended.”

Blood pressure measurement is an important component of cardiovascular disease risk assessment and management. Actions you can take to ’know your numbers’ and be proactive in managing high blood pressure include:

*  Checking of blood pressure—your health professional can check your blood pressure and may also recommend you take measurements at home or undergo blood pressure monitoring over a 24 hour period

*  Knowing your blood pressure goal

*  Keeping a record of blood pressure measurements and an up-to-date list of medicines

*  Making lifestyle changes as recommended by a doctor

*  Taking medicines as prescribed.

Detailed information about blood pressure management can be found here.

An NPS MedicineWise animation explaining why recording blood pressure is important is available here.

*Online survey by Galaxy Research of 1,136 Australian adults undertaken for NPS MedicineWise, 4-6 February 2015.
12 MAY 2015

With two influenza (flu) vaccine formulations available this winter, NPS MedicineWise is reporting a spike in calls to its Medicines Line from consumers confused about the difference between the two options.

Manager of the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line Sarah Spagnardi says it’s understandable that people are asking questions about what is right for them, given that there are more options available to help combat the upcoming flu season.

“There is some confusion about the difference between the 2015 vaccine formulations. Basically one vaccine formulation protects against three strains of flu, while the other protects against the same three and also contains an additional strain – so four strains in total,” she says.

“You’ll hear these referred to as ‘trivalent’ (three strain) and ‘quadrivalent’ (four strain) vaccines.

“As this is the first year a quadrivalent flu vaccine has been available in Australia, a common question to the Medicines Line has been whether one vaccine is better than the other,” says Ms Spagnardi.

“Having the extra influenza B strain in the quadrivalent vaccine may provide extra protection, but this of course depends on the influenza strains circulating within the community.”

The trivalent (three strain) vaccine is free for certain people

The standard trivalent vaccine will cover the main circulating flu strains, and is provided free for at-risk groups eligible under the government’s National Immunisation Program, including:

*  pregnant women

*  persons aged 65 years and older

*  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 6 months to under 5, or 15 years and older

* people with specified medical conditions that put them at increased risk of flu complications.

For those not eligible for free vaccination, this vaccine is also available for purchase.

The quadrivalent (four strain) vaccine will require payment

The new quadrivalent vaccine is not government-funded, so there is a cost involved. People will need to decide if they should pay extra to be protected against the four flu strains in this year’s quadrivalent vaccine, which adds protection against an additional influenza B strain.

Flu vaccines are available now

Influenza can lead to serious illness including pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalisation and may even lead to death, so the flu vaccine is an important preventive step to consider.

“While we are encouraging callers to speak to their doctor for advice about these different vaccination options, the main message is that for those at risk, a flu vaccine will greatly reduce their chance of contracting the flu — and therefore also reduce the risk of acquiring any follow-on ‘secondary’ infections,” says Ms Spagnardi.

It is best to book an appointment with a health professional as soon as possible, before the winter flu season begins.

To ensure continuing protection against influenza, people vaccinated in 2014 still need to be vaccinated in 2015 as the flu strains expected in the community are different this year.

Medicines Line also receives questions every year about the potential side effects of the flu vaccine.

“While it’s important to remember you can’t catch the flu from the flu vaccine, some people who receive the flu vaccine may experience common but usually short-lived side effects, including localised pain, redness and swelling, a mild fever, muscle pain or joint pain, and fatigue or tiredness,” says Ms Spagnardi.

“However, if you are concerned about a side effect you are experiencing, you can talk to your doctor, or call the Adverse Medicine Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 to discuss and report it.”

Information about flu vaccines as well as more general information about vaccination can be found on the NPSMedicineWise Vaccines and immunisation knowledge hub at

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).

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