Complementary medicines – reveal all to your pharmacist to stay safe
With almost 7 million Australians taking some form of complementary medicine every day*, NPS MedicineWise is reminding people that complementary medicines should be treated like other medicines. Complementary medicines may interact with your prescription and over-the-counter medicines which may cause you harm, so reveal all your medicines to your pharmacist before you buy a complementary medicine.
According to a Galaxy survey* conducted by NPS MedicineWise, only 20% of Australians never take a complementary medicine and around 8 million Australians take two or more forms of complementary medicines in a typical week. The same survey found that of Australians taking complementary medicines every day, the majority (59%) also take prescription medicine daily.
“Complementary medicines may not work well with prescription medicines,” says Dr Jill Thistlethwaite, NPS MedicineWise Medical Adviser and general practitioner.
“For example, St John’s Wort, which some people take to help with depression may make medicines such as some epilepsy medicines and blood thinners less effective,” continues Dr Thistlethwaite. “It may also interact with some prescribed antidepressant medicines increasing the risk of side effects.
“Other examples include gingko and milk thistle which may both interact with antidiabetes medicines, changing blood glucose levels,” she says.
In Australia most complementary medicines, are listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (marked with AUST L on the packaging) rather than registered (AUST R). This means that while they are assessed for safety and quality, they are not assessed for whether or not they are effective.
“When checking or changing treatment, it is important to tell your health professional of all the medicines you are taking including complementary medicines,” says Dr Thistlethwaite. “And, if you do take complementary medicines, your pharmacist can give you advice on which are safe for you to take.”