NPS Media Releases – 1. Medicinewise Travellers 2. CM Interactions


As many Australians prepare to travel both interstate and overseas this holiday season, NPS MedicineWise is urging people to be medicinewise when travelling with their medicines.
NPS Medicines Line Manager, Sarah Spagnardi, says that thinking ahead can help you plan a safer holiday and avoid potential problems with your medicines.

“Having a medicines mishap away from home can be really problematic,” says Ms Spagnardi. “However there are a few simple things you can do to be medicinewise this holiday season.”

“You should always carry a spare prescription for each of your medicines and always check with the security regulations in the countries you may be visiting. Some airlines have different regulations about what medicines and devices (e.g. syringes, needles) you can and cannot bring on to a flight. As well as a prescription, a letter from your doctor explaining your medicines and why you need to travel with them is a good idea, and it’s really important to ensure your medicines are clearly labelled.”

Some countries may have different customs regulations for medicines. If in doubt it is best to check with the embassy or consulate of that country before travelling. It is also key to consider the storage requirements of your medicines, especially if they require refrigeration.

“Some airlines will offer storage for medicines that need to be kept refrigerated so you should you check with the airline before travelling. However it is also important to ensure you can look after your medicines safely and wisely yourself so you might want to think about what you will carry these in to keep them cool,” says Ms Spagnardi.

Crossing time zones when travelling overseas can make it difficult to know when to take your medicines. Many medicines need no adjustment because their timing is not critical. But for some medicines, including diabetes medicines, blood pressure and stroke medicines and some oral contraceptive pills, you may need to adjust the timing or dose. It is important to visit your doctor or pharmacist before you leave so you can discuss and plan what you need to do with your medicines, and whether you need to adjust timings.

Keeping a list of medicines is an important part of being a medicinewise traveller. The free MedicineList+ app (for both Android and iOS devices) makes it easy to list all the medicines you and your family are taking on your smartphone. Keep the list up to date so you have the information on hand if you need to share it with family members or health professionals. The app stores medication history, reminders for doses, script repeat reminders and also has a script refill request option.
Some helpful hints for travellers this holiday season are:

*  Always carry spare prescriptions for your medicines

*  It is a good idea to have a letter from your prescribing doctor outlining your medicines and why you need to travel with them

*  Ensure you have an adequate supply of your medicine with you just in case travel does not go to plan and you face delays

*  If your medicines need to be taken at the same time each day, check if you are crossing time zones and plan accordingly

*  If you are travelling to a warmer climate, remember that most medicines need to be stored under 25°C, and you might need an insulated pouch for medicines storage

*  Keeping an up-to-date medicines list using the smartphone app MedicineList+ can help you keep track of your own medicines and those of the people you are travelling with.

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).



With new information from Melbourne’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre revealing that some complementary medicines can interact with cancer treatment, NPS MedicineWise reminds all Australians that complementary medicines can cause side effects, and interact with other over-the-counter and prescription medicines.

NPS Medicines Line Manager and pharmacist, Sarah Spagnardi, says that people may not think about complementary medicines in the same way as other medicines. Complementary medicines can have benefits, but they can also cause side effects, adverse reactions and interactions with other medicines, so they still need to be used with care.

“As with all medicines, tell your health professional about any multivitamin, herbal or mineral supplements you are taking to help avoid potentially harmful interactions. People may not always think to tell their health professional they are taking complementary medicines and this can become a problem if medicines have the potential to interact,” says Ms Spagnardi.

Complementary medicines do not go through testing processes in the same way that prescription and pharmacy medicines do before they can be sold in Australia, so often less is known about their effectiveness, possible side effects and interactions. Ms Spagnardi says the NPS Medicines Line fields numerous calls from Australians with questions about complementary medicines and interactions with complementary medicines.

“Over 50% of all calls to Medicines Line about complementary medicines are questions about drug interactions,” says Ms Spagnardi. “The complementary medicines that generate the most enquiries are Vitamin D and calcium preparations, multivitamin products, fish oil preparations, glucosamine products and St John’s wort.”

It is important to understand that certain complementary medicines may interact with prescription medicines. For example, St John’s wort is often used to alleviate depression, but can interact with several commonly used prescription medicines by making them less effective or by increasing their side effects. These prescription medicines include antidepressants, the oral contraceptive pill, digoxin, blood-thinning medicines, some cholesterol-lowering medicines, epilepsy medicines, HIV medicines, pain medicines, chemotherapy medicines and medicines used to prevent rejection after an organ transplant. 

“Your doctor and pharmacist need to know about all your medicines so they can consider any possible interactions when recommending other medicines for you,” says Ms Spagnardi.

“It’s also really important to include your complementary medicines on your Medicines List so you have a record at hand. NPSMedicineWise has developed a handy smartphone app—MedicineList+—that you can use to record all the medicines you or people you care for are taking, and easily share this with your health care team,” says Ms Spagnardi.

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).

MedicineList+ is a free smartphone app (android and iPhone). To find out more and to download the apps go to



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