A new survey into the medicine-taking habits of Australians estimates more than 9 million people take a prescribed medicine every day, with 8 million taking two or more prescribed medicines in a week.

The survey of more than 1,000 adult Australians conducted by YouGov Galaxy* last month, also estimates more than 2 million people take over-the-counter medicine daily and more than 7 million take a complementary medicine daily.

The findings have been released for this year’s Be Medicinewise Week (20-26 August), to raise awareness of the importance of safe and wise medicines use by families. This year’s theme of Medicinewise families will focus on the information all families need to know about the type of medicines they are taking, administering medicines to children, or helping other family members understand their medicines.

NPS MedicineWise Medical Adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo said: “There’s no doubt medicines are part of many people’s lives, so it’s critical we have access to all the information we need about the medicines we’re taking, including why we’re taking them and how to take them correctly.”

“It doesn’t matter whether our medicines have been prescribed by a doctor or bought from a supermarket or health food store, medicines can have side effects, and can interact with other medicines if you are taking multiple medicines,” Dr Yoo said.

“Each year more than 230,000 Australians are hospitalised with problems caused by their medicine1, and if medicines aren’t used correctly, the results can be serious.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to taking medicines. We’re urging people to talk to their doctors and pharmacists about their medicines, and any medicines for children or other family members they’re caring for.”

NPS MedicineWise offers the following five steps to help keep your family medicinewise:

1.Ask questions to get the information you need about medicines and make better informed decisions. For example, how do I take the medicine, when do I take the medicine, are there common side effects?

2.Know it’s a medicine. Medicines don’t just come on prescription – they include over-the-counter medicines from a pharmacy, supermarket or other store, as well as herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements.

3.Know the active ingredient. Active ingredients are what make your medicines work. If your pharmacist offers you an alternative brand of prescription medicine, you can be sure it will work the same way as your usual medicine.

4.Always follow instructions from your doctor or pharmacist and read the labels and packaging of your medicines carefully. For more detailed information, read the Consumer Medicine Information leaflet which is available for prescription and pharmacist-only medicines.

5.Keep track of all your medicines. Keep a current list of your medicines on paper to keep with you, especially on visits to your doctor, pharmacist or to the hospital, or use our MedicineWise App on your smartphone.

Find more information about medicines at nps.org.au, or call the Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST excluding NSW public holidays. To report a problem with medicines or vaccines, call the Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237.

*YouGov Galaxy Poll: Following completion of interviewing, the data was weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates.

1Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Literary Review: Medication Safety in Australia. Sydney: ACSQHC, 2013. —

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