NPS Media Releases – Medicinewise Multiple Releases

15 OCTOBER 2015

Results from a recent survey conducted for NPS MedicineWise show that many Australian adults report they are not taking their prescription medicines as directed. A key message of Be Medicinewise Week 2015 is that when medicines become a regular part of life, it’s time to find ways to be medicinewise and improve your health outcomes.

In the survey, respondents identified a number of reasons for failing to take their medicines as directed:

*  26% said they were in a hurry and forgot

*  21% said they didn’t have the medicine with them when needed

*  16% said they stopped because of side effects

*  16% said they stopped because they were feeling better.*

In previous research by NPS MedicineWise many Australians have self reported that they always, often or sometimes forget to take their medicines, or take less than instructed.**

Not taking medicines as prescribed for long-term conditions is associated with poorer health outcomes, higher health care costs and lost productivity, including negative effects on work and lifestyle.

NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says, “Taking a medicine incorrectly could mean you end up with too little or too much of the medicine in your body, so you may not experience the full benefit of the medicine – or alternatively increase the risk of side effects.

“Many people do have difficulty taking all of their medicines at the right time and dose. If you are having trouble understanding or managing your medicines speak with your doctor or pharmacist. There are a range of tools and resources that can help you manage your medicines.”

The free MedicineList+ smartphone app is one tool that can help, for example by setting reminders and keeping track of medications for yourself or someone you care for.

Start managing your medicines safely and wisely this Be Medicinewise Week. Five top tips are:

*  Take your medicines as directed

*  Don’t suddenly stop taking your medicines

*  Get to know your medicines – learn the active ingredient to avoid double dosing

*  Give old medicines the boot – clean out your medicines cabinet regularly

*  Communication is key – talk to your health professional about all the medicines you are taking and let them know about any problems you having managing your medicines.

Further information is available in the Be Medicinewise Week fact sheet You’re never too busy to be medicinewise. Find out more information about this health campaign at

*Online survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by Galaxy Research for NPS MedicineWise 17-20 September, 2015.

**NPS Annual Evaluation Report 2014

14 OCTOBER 2015

In a recent survey conducted for NPS MedicineWise*, Australian adults were asked to choose, from a range of between 12 and 20 years, at what age they thought young people can safely start to dose and be responsible for their own medicines. 33% of the respondents indicated they thought 16 years and over was an appropriate age, while 17% said 14 years and over and 20% suggested 18 years and above.

Today Be Medicinewise Week is providing tips to teenagers and their families on the importance of being medicinewise as they grow up and become independent and responsible for their own health.

NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo says, “Parents and carers should talk to their teenagers about medicines. Many children younger than 16 are already managing health conditions like asthma or a serious allergy, so medicinewise habits are important.

“Teenagers can start to take responsibility for their own health by learning how to ask questions about their medicines, reading labels and packaging carefully and understanding why it is important to always follow instructions from their doctor or pharmacist.”

A great tip for parents and carers is to encourage teenagers to use technology to help manage their medicines as they start to grow up. The free MedicineList + app stores dose details, sets alarms and records medicines and health information. The information stored in the app can be emailed to schools and also shared with health professionals during consultations or emergencies.

A fact sheet ‘You’re never too cool to be medicinewise’ has been developed for teenagers and their families this Be Medicinewise Week. It includes questions to ask about medicines, the importance of sticking to action plans, using technology to help remember doses, and who’s who in your healthcare. 

Find out more information about the campaign at

*Online survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by Galaxy Research for NPS MedicineWise 17-20 September, 2015.


13 OCTOBER 2015

With over 10,600 phone calls about accidental medicines exposures and 4,391 calls about dosing errors made to the NSW Poisons Information Centre in one year—all in children 0-14 years—NPS MedicineWise is reminding parents and carers of the importance of being medicinewise with children this Be Medicinewise Week.

Today Be Medicinewise Week ambassador Jimmy Rees (Jimmy Giggle from ‘Giggle and Hoot’ on ABC Kids) will be leading parents in Australia’s largest weigh in to raise awareness on the importance of dosing by age and weight to avoid accidental overdosing.

Recent polling conducted for NPS MedicineWise* shows parents are feeling unsure about many aspects of giving medicine to children including how much medicine to give, whether to expect side effects and how to know if the medicine is working. Parents of children aged 4 years or younger were the most likely to be confused about administering medicine to children, while 43% of parents surveyed said they occasionally or regularly took an educated guess on the medicine dose. This method can cause medication errors.

Jimmy Rees says, “It’s great to have the opportunity to spread the word about how small mistakes can cause big problems in little bodies when it comes to children’s medicines. I’m a dad, I work with kids and entertain kids across Australia, so I’m happy to spread the word on how important it is to accurately give children medicine to avoid accidental overdosing.

“This Be Medicinewise Week is a great time for us all to learn a little more about children’s medicines. Some of the top tips I’ve learnt are—be prepared, read the label, weigh your children regularly as it’s important for working out dosage, know how to use measuring devices, keep records of doses and be safe and responsible with medicines around the home.”

When surveyed parents were asked about the medicines issues that confused them:

* 19% reported feeling confused about whether to expect side effects

* 18% were confused about dosage/how much medicine to give

* 18% were unsure about how long their child should take the medicine

* 18% indicated confusion about whether or not the medicine is working

* 14% replied that dosage devices can be hard to use.

Sarah Spagnardi, manager of the NPS Medicines Line says, “There are many children’s medicines available, in many formulations and many come with their own, separate dosing devices. So it’s not surprising that the survey picked up on a level of confusion.”

For the pharmacists on the NPS Medicines Line their most common calls about children and medicines are about what age a child can use a medicine, when can medicines be used together and if the recommended dose is right for a particular child.

“No one wants to see figures rising for medicine mistakes in children. That’s why this Be Medicinewise Week we are reminding parents and carers about the importance of accurately measuring and administering medicine. Don’t take the risk—ask for dosing guidance from your doctor or pharmacist if you are confused,” says Ms Spagnardi.

Photo and interview opportunity:

Be Medicinewise Week ambassador Jimmy Rees (better known as popular character Jimmy Giggle) will be attending an event to raise awareness of the importance of giving medicine to children safely at North Sydney Community Centre at 10:45am on Tuesday 13 October 2015. Media representatives wishing to attend can RSVP their attendance

Further information is available in the Be Medicinewise Week video and fact sheet How to be medicinewise with children”.Find out more information about this health campaign at

*Online survey of Australian adults undertaken by Galaxy Research for NPS MedicineWise 17-20 September, 2015.

12 OCTOBER 2015
Stay safe with medicines while breastfeeding

Deciding to use medicine at any life stage involves weighing up the potential benefits and risks. When you are breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that the medicines you take may pass into your breast milk.

In most cases, the concentrations will be so low that they won’t present a risk to your baby. However, it is important to be aware that some medicines of concern can pass into the milk in high concentrations. If unsure, ask your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

In the October edition of Australian Prescriber, Mr Neil Hotham, specialist editor of Australian Medicines Handbook, and Dr Elizabeth Hotham, Bachelor of Pharmacy program director at the University of South Australia, identify several medicines that can cause harm to a baby while breastfeeding. These include some medicines used to treat acne (oral retinoids) and cancer.

The authors also advise mothers to cut down on social drugs, such as alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine while breastfeeding.

“It’s best for mothers to delay drinking alcohol until after a feed, or wait two hours before the next feed to minimise risks. Smoking has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome. Nicotine replacement therapy — in a short-acting formulation such as lozenges rather than patches— is preferable to smoking. In addition, a high intake of caffeine has been associated with irritability and poor sleep patterns in babies who breastfeed.”  

“If the baby is exposed to a medicine in the breast milk, several factors determine if there is an effect, such as the timing and size of the dose, toxicity of the medicine, and the age and weight of the infant.”

General tips when taking medicines while breastfeeding include:

*  use a short-acting medicine

*  use the lowest effective dose

*  feed your baby before taking your medication.

This timely reminder kicks off the fifth annual Be Medicinewise Week (12–18 October 2015), a national awareness week that promotes the safe and wiser use of medicines by all Australians. This year’s theme ‘Be medicinewise at all ages and life stages’ focuses on how and when Australians may use medicines differently at various times in their life.

NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says that being medicinewise means knowing how and when to use medicines safely and effectively across all life stages. “It is important to be aware of the safe and appropriate use of medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding — your doctor, midwife or pharmacist is a great source of advice at this stage in life.”

Visit to find out more.

12 OCTOBER 2015

During this year’s annual Be Medicinewise Week, Australians are encouraged to ‘be medicinewise at all ages and life stages’. The focus for the first day of the campaign is pregnancy and breastfeeding—a life stage where it is extremely important to be aware of the safe and appropriate use of medicines.

In a recent survey of Australian women who were pregnant or had a child 11 years or younger:

*  33% said they had taken prescription medicine during their pregnancy

*  33% said they had taken over-the-counter medicine during their pregnancy.

Calls about using medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding are some of the most common fielded by the NPS Medicines Lines’ pharmacists. The most regular queries from women during pregnancy are about cold and flu medicines, hayfever medicines and antidepressants. The top queries from breastfeeding women are about using hayfever medicines, cough and cold medicines and medicines for pain and fever.

Dr Jeannie Yoo, NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser says, “Be MedicineWise Week is a reminder for pregnant and breastfeeding women to ask the right questions and weigh up the risks and benefits before taking medicines. It’s a time in your life when you need to stop and think about what medicine you’re taking, why you’re taking it, and to seek the right advice.

“There are times during pregnancy when using a medicine is optional. For example, if you get a head cold or a sore throat you may decide to manage the symptoms without taking a medicine. At other times, it may be essential to continue using a medicine: such as when it helps to manage a long term condition like asthma, diabetes, depression, or seizures. Without the medicine the health of both mother and baby may be put at risk.”

Medicines can cause harm during pregnancy by being transported across the placenta and interfering with the baby’s development or by damaging the placenta and restricting the nourishment delivered to the baby.

“It’s also important to remember when you are breastfeeding that the medicines you take may pass into your breastmilk. Although many common medicines are relatively safe for breastfed babies, there are some medicines that either shouldn’t be used or need special care,” says Dr Yoo.

Examples of commonly used medicines that you need to be careful with when breastfeeding are some combination cough and cold medicines and medicines containing codeine.

It is important to ask questions about complementary medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding too. If you are planning pregnancy, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, remember that many complementary medicines have not undergone the same level of research as prescription and over-the-counter medicines, so often less is known about their effectiveness, possible side effects and interactions (both overall and during pregnancy and breastfeeding).

Although some vitamins and complementary products are designed especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women, other medicines that you can buy from a supermarket, pharmacy, health food store or online may not be safe.
So always ask for guidance from your health professionals.

Women at this life stage should always carefully read the packaging, labels and information that come with their medicine as well as ask questions about their medicines to their medical practitioner and pharmacist.

Further information is available in the Be Medicinewise Week fact sheets ‘Be Medicinewise during pregnancy’ and ‘Be Medicinewise when breastfeeding’. Be Medicinewise Week runs from 12 to 18 October, find out more at the campaign website page

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 AEDT (excluding public holidays).

*Online survey of pregnant women and women who had children 11 years or younger undertaken by Galaxy Research for NPSMedicineWise, 17-20 September, 2015.

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