NPS Media Releases – Miscellaneous Releases – National Medicines Symposium

23 MAY 2016

The ninth National Medicines Symposium wrapped up in Canberra on Friday with a stimulating look at how health decision making happens in the real world.

Improving health literacy, focusing on shared decision making and helping people to find and access high quality health information online were flagged as key priorities to support consumer health decision making.

Topics of discussions covered over the two days were wide ranging and covered the spectrum of decision making from governments right through to how choices are made at an individual level.

Delegates heard about:

  • how global megatrends are reshaping the delivery of health care and how decisions get made
  • the need for a shared vision for the Australian health system into the future underpinned by sound regulatory and policy frameworks, strong collaboration and cooperation, and built around the health care consumer
  • the potential for pharmacogenomics for predicting adverse drug effects in diverse patient groups
  • the importance of robust post market surveillance, adverse event reporting, collection and analysis of quality data and being able to leverage this knowledge to inform decision making
  • the importance of understanding patient needs and reducing variability in clinical practice; and
  • how to better engage the community in conversations about risks, harms and benefits of medical treatments.

Attended by around 350 people from all facets of the health sector, the symposium reinforced the importance of understanding how health decisions are made; the tools, infrastructure and resources that are necessary to support better health decision making; and the importance of placing the consumer firmly at the centre of health care.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes said that NMS 2016 looked to the future, helping to shape thinking for policy makers, health care providers and consumers.

“It was promising to hear strong calls for co-creation of solutions, shared vision and a willingness to embrace technological change so that disruptive technologies are harnessed for the benefit of all,” she said.

Selected podcasts from key NMS 2016 sessions will be available in the coming weeks on the NPS MedicineWise website. Abstracts and digital posters are also available at

The next National Medicines Symposium will be held in 2018.

In case you missed it: more news from the National Medicines Symposium

19 May 2016: National Medicines Symposium underway in Canberra today

19 May 2016: Quick reference guide improves antibiotic prescribing

20 May 2016: National Medicinewise Awards: Winners announced in Canberra last night

20 May 2016: Pregnant women and new parents sharing medicines information on Facebook

20 May 2016: Big knowledge gaps with children’s paracetamol

About NMS 2016

The ninth National Medicines Symposium 2016 was held 19–20 May 2016 at the National Convention Centre in Canberra. This leading biennial symposium brings together experts from across Australia and abroad to discuss and debate local and global approaches to quality use of medicines, and in 2016 will expand to include quality use of broader health technologies

The theme for NMS 2016 is Making wise decisions about medicines, tests and technologies: co-designing policy, practice and priorities. It will look at current and future challenges affecting the medicines, tests and broader health sector.

Access to NMS 2016

Selected podcasts and videos from NMS 2016 will be available soon at The program and abstracts are also available at this web page.

All digital poster submissions can be viewed at


Leading local and international health sector experts and health professionals are taking part Day 2 of the ninth National Medicines Symposium: Making wise decisions about medicines, tests and technologies, hosted by NPS MedicineWise.

Speakers will debate and discuss current quality use of medicines, medical tests and medical technologies issues for consumers, health professionals and the broader health landscape. Some topics of interest from today’s program are listed below.

New technology and changing perspectives: genetic testing for greater goodProf Bruce Carleton, University of British Columbia95% of all adverse drug reactions are never reported in Canada. Visiting speaker Prof Carleton provides an update on how effective surveillance systems via a national network are improving the safe use of medication in Canada and the search for genomic solutions to the lack of predictability of many severe reactions. Session 200 at 8:40am
Bioethics in the context of innovationA/Prof Michelle Meyer, Clarkson University; Mount Sinai Bioethics Program, USAMany healthcare innovations are never rigorously tested in real-world settings, if at all. This talk will make the case that ethically responsible innovation requires continuous, rigorous study of innovations in real-world practice contexts. Session 202 at 10:10am
Potentially preventable hospitalisations: implementation of medication-related indicatorsDr Gillian Caughey, University of South AustraliaResults of a pilot study of the implementation of a medication-related clinical indicators within a national chronic disease management program of older patients with multimorbidity. Suboptimal medication-related care was identified in 36% of cases. Session 208 at 11:15am
How do we create consumer directed medicines support?Jane London, NPS MedicineWiseAn update on how NPS MedicineWise is testing the feasibility of a new medicines support service in Australia (based on the NHS new medicines service), involving supporting consumers through their use of a new medicine by providing advice, information and referrals back to the GP when required. Session 212 at 11:15am
Optimising registered nurse and midwife prescribing opportunitiesKaren Bettenay, Queensland University of TechnologyAn examination of the scope to expanding registered nurse and midwife prescribing under an autonomous model and the gaps that have been identified in the prescribing capabilities of other categories of registered nurses and midwives. Session 218 at 2:10pm
How much do adults know about children’s paracetamol?Judy Mullan, University WollongongResults from an online survey investigating knowledge about how to safely administer paracetamol to children shows knowledge gaps which could predispose children to experiencing adverse effects. Academic poster 387 
Latent tuberculosis infection in the refugee populationE. Ong, Pharmacy Department, Monash HealthAnalysis of development of a resource for refugees attending infectious diseases clinics in Melbourne to improve suboptimal adherence to treatment in the refugee population for latent tuberculosis infection. Effective treatment can prevent progression to active tuberculosis. Academic poster 390
Facebook and peer to peer sharing of medicines information amongst pregnant and new mothersS. Smith, Calvary Health Care BruceResults of an examination of posts from selected local Facebook mothers’ groups about medication related questions. 19% of responses were considered inaccurate and the most commonly discussed topic was treatment of coughs and colds (31%). Academic poster 394

Access to NMS 2016

Main sessions from NMS 2016 will be broadcast live via internet radio to a virtual audience, powered by Pop Up Radio Australia. Click here or tune in from the link on the conference app to listen to live broadcasts of all Ballroom sessions, interviews with speakers and more, on Thursday 19 May (8:00am to 5:30pm) and Friday 20 May (8:00am to 3:45pm).

The NMS 2016 program is available for viewing here.

All digital poster submissions can be viewed at

Abstracts and posters will be available both during and after NMS 2016 at


19 MAY 2016


Visiting speaker Professor Bruce Carleton, University of British Columbia, will present at the National Medicines Symposium 2016 on Friday 20 May on Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs). ADRs can cause significant morbidity and mortality—ADRs are the 4th leading cause of death in North America, and 95% are unreported.

Professor Carleton will speak about his field of expertise, pharmacogenics, and how the identification of genetic markers is essential for developing diagnostic tests to predict which patients are at higher risk of developing ADRs—and how he would like other countries, including Australia, to work closely together on this serious medicines issue. Ultimately, this will lead to the modification of treatment for susceptible individuals, and therefore, a reduction in the incidence of severe ADRs.

Listen to Professor Carleton’s talk live at 8:40am (AEST) by clicking on the Pop Up Radio link here.

19 MAY 2016


A Tasmanian initiative to provide a ‘Quick Reference Guide’ to antibiotic prescribing in the community has been embraced by general practitioners (GPs) and is set to improve prescribing, delegates at the National Medicines Symposium in Canberra have heard.

Recognising the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, and taking into account that around 80% of antibiotic prescribing occurs in community settings, where prescribing is less closely controlled, the project team identified an opportunity to improve access to guidelines for prescribers.

Angus Thompson from the University of Tasmania says that while there are excellent evidence based, comprehensive and well respected guidelines that have been developed for the Australian context, these guidelines are not freely available to all prescribers and are not tailored to meet the needs of GPs.

“Some guidelines for other therapy areas are freely available and produced in quick reference formats. We saw the opportunity to adapt the national antimicrobial prescribing guidelines to a similar style,” says Mr Thompson.

The Quick Reference Guide is designed to support GPs in making more appropriate antibiotic prescribing decisions and some GPs are using the resource to engage patients in discussions about whether an antibiotic is needed and if it is, what is most appropriate.

“We know that around 70% of GPs who responded to a recent survey are already using the Quick Reference Guide, and they report that it has already had impacts on the choice of drug, dose, frequency and duration of treatment.”

“The changes we’ve seen align well to best practice in antibiotic prescribing, including the MINDME antimicrobial prescribing creed.”

The project team is keen to see a community specific guideline template, similar to the Quick Reference Guide, developed nationally by key stakeholders and rolled out more widely, with local adaptation to account for local resistance patterns and the regional variations in the infections encountered by GPs.

“The national antimicrobial resistance strategy will take years to implement and will face many challenges, but our Quick Reference Guide to support evidence-based antimicrobial prescribing is one resource that could have an impact to improve practice in a much shorter time frame,” says Mr Thompson.

19 MAY 2016


The National Medicines Symposium 2016 has opened in Canberra today with a keynote address from Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, Senior Principal Scientist from the CSIRO on the megatrends reshaping our world over the coming twenty years, with an emphasis on the importance of innovation and using existing resources more efficiently.

Leading local and international health sector experts and health professionals have converged on Canberra to take part in the ninth National Medicines Symposium: Making wise decisions about medicines, tests and technologies.

In his opening plenary presentation, Dr Hajkowicz identified rising chronic disease, the ageing population and related health sector challenges as some of the key health trends to impact upon our world in the coming years.

He also reflected on the value of interaction between individuals and the importance of human experiences in an automation-filled future.

Dr Lynn Weekes, CEO of NPS MedicineWise, welcomed delegates from different health and academic sectors and encouraged them to participate in debates and creative discussions over the next two days.

“The National Medicines Symposium is a keynote event for our sector and an opportunity to hear from leaders within our sector but also from other disciplines, and to help inform our thinking as stewards of the healthcare system now and into the future.”

A panel of experts including Dr Weekes, Professor Andrew Wilson, Chair, Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, Dr Frank Jones, President, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Adjunct Professor John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary, Regulatory Services Group, Australian Government Department of Health, Professor Lloyd Sansom, Emeritus Professor, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, and Leanne Wells, CEO, Consumers Health Forum of Australia discussed the foundations of good health decision making and set the scene for rest of the symposium.

“It’s clear from discussions already that consumer co-design, integrated systems, sharing of data and sound regulatory and policy frameworks are building blocks for the health system of the future,” says Dr Weekes.

“This is a pivotal time with the current reviews and thinking underway to transform the health system and NMS is a great platform to spark these conversations.”


Leading local and international health sector experts and health professionals are converging on Canberra today to take part in the ninth National Medicines Symposium: Making wise decisions about medicines, tests and technologies, hosted by NPSMedicineWise.

Speakers will debate and discuss current quality use of medicines, medical tests and medical technologies issues for consumers, health professionals and the broader health landscape. Some topics of interest from today’s program are listed below.

Adverse drug reaction reporting—are we meeting our responsibilities in Australia?Megan Arnold, Jane Booth, Dr Richard Hill, Claire Keith, Debbie Rigby, David WoodsIt is estimated that one in ten patients has suffered an adverse reaction to a therapeutic product in the past six months. Discussion on the detection, management and surveillance of adverse drug reactions. Panel session 104 at 11:30am
Community antimicrobial prescribing—the case for tailored guidelines with universal free accessAngus Thompson, University of TasmaniaThe case for access to a Quick Reference Guide (QRG) to antimicrobial use in general practice. GPs in a Tasmanian study reported specific changes in practice. Session 106 at 11:30am
MedicineInsight data: the new data on the blockPresented by NPS MedicineWiseAn update on MedicineInsight, a large-scale Australian general practice program that aims to advance understanding of medicines use to inform and improve medicines policy, research and clinical practice by collecting routing clinical data from GPs. Session 109 at 12:30pm
General Practitioner Antimicrobial Stewardship Programme Study (GAPS)Dr Minyon Avent, The University of QueenslandFinal results on a trial to assess if an integrated, multifaceted package of interventions reduced antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections in general practice. Session 113 at 1:30pm
Prescribing patterns of dental practitioners in Australia – antibiotics, analgesics & psychotropicsS. Hollingworth, University of QueenslandData shows that dental practitioners are significant prescribers of antibiotics, with a concerning increase. Dental prescribing of most pain-related medicines has increased over the last decade as well as the use of benzodiazepines. Academic Posters 318 & 319
Pharmacists and general practices partnering with refugeesS. Hollingworth, University of QueenslandRefugee health issues are increasingly experienced in primary health care. This study builds upon previous studies and offers new understandings towards enhancing quality use of medicines in refugee communities and practical insights for pharmacists. Academic poster 320 
Waiter, there’s an antibiotic in my soup…L. Nissen, QUTResults of a study exploring hospital pharmacists’ understanding of antibiotic entry into the environment, and a lack of awareness of best practice methods for the disposal of pharmaceutical waste. Academic poster 336
Medicine shortages in community pharmaciesB. Chaar, The University of SydneyA new survey shows pharmacists regularly experience medicine shortages and related impacts. Academic poster 350
A health system that supports contraceptive choice according to best practicesK. Silk, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals AssociationTake up of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) in Australia is low, despite support for their use by peak bodies and key opinion leaders. Findings of a study that explores the policy, workforce and cost factors that enable or hinder choices for contraception according to best practice. Academic poster 357

Access to NMS 2016

Main sessions from NMS 2016 will be broadcast live via internet radio, powered by Pop Up Radio Australia. Click here or tune in from the link on the conference app to listen to live broadcasts of all Ballroom sessions, interviews with speakers and more, on Thursday 19 May (8:00am to 5:30pm) and Friday 20 May (8:00am to 3:45pm).

The NMS 2016 program is available for viewing here.

All digital poster submissions can be viewed at

Abstracts and posters will be available both during and after NMS 2016 at

17 MAY 2016


Following the broadcast of the ABC’s Four Corners episode last night on complementary medicines, NPS MedicineWise is reminding people to take these medicines with care.

Many people like to use complementary medicines, which include natural and herbal medicines, alternative or holistic remedies, traditional remedies, homeopathy, aromatherapy oils, and vitamins and minerals (although these can be part of medical treatment too).

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that over 50% of all calls to Medicines Line about complementary medicines are questions about drug interactions – with the the most enquiries regarding Vitamin D and calcium preparations, multivitamin products, fish oil and other marine oil preparations, glucosamine products and St John’s wort.

“Although complementary medicines can have benefits, they can still have side effects, interactions, and cause allergic reactions, and they also undergo less testing in general compared to other types of medicines, so they still need to be used with care,” says Dr Weekes.

With complementary medicines in the spotlight, NPS MedicineWise is strongly encouraging people to be open with their health professional and tell them about all the prescription and non-prescription medicines they are taking.

“Talk to your pharmacist or doctor in the first instance to find out whether a complementary medicine might be the right course of treatment for you,” says Dr Weekes.

“Remember to ask if there will be any effect on your other prescription or non-prescription medicines.

“Your health professional can help guide you when it comes to choosing a complementary medicine, how much to take, how often to take the medicine, and what side effects and interactions to look out for.”

The free MedicineList+ smartphone app by NPS MedicineWise is one tool to help you or someone you care for to keep a complete list of all your prescription, non-prescription and complementary medicines. The app helps you keep track of what you’re taking and when you should take it, it offers reminders, and allows you to share your list with a health professional.

Dr Weekes has one final tip for anyone looking on the internet to find out more about, or to buy complementary medicines.

“Finding good information on the internet can be tricky, as there are thousands of websites providing information about complementary medicines—but you need to keep in mind that many of these are designed to sell products, and the information they provide is often not reliable,” she says.

“There are also potential pitfalls and risks when it comes to buying complementary medicines online. There’s no certainty that something you buy from an overseas website has been manufactured to Australian standards, and even a product with the same brand name as an Australian product may have completely different active ingredients. Essentially, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Further reading

To read more about using complementary medicines, go to 

For more information about how medicines are approved for sale in Australia, visit 

For more information on the Government rules for complementary medicines sold in Australia, see the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s web page on The regulation of complementary medicines in Australia – an overview: 

Telephone services
For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, including questions about side effects and medicine interactions, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).

If you experience a significant side effect relating to your medicines, it’s important to contact your health professional. You are also able to report this to the Therapeutic Goods Administration via the NPS Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237.

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