NPS program aims to bust medicine myths
NEW research from the National Prescribing Service (NPS) has revealed confusion among Australian consumers around what does and does not count as a medicine.
According to the survey of 1500 consumers, less than half considered multivitamins and herbal remedies, such as echinacea, as medicines.
Around a quarter of consumers also did not believe that over-the-counter products – such as nasal sprays for hayfever or cough syrups – were medicines.
NPS clinical adviser Dr Danielle Stowasser said the survey indicated it was time Australians started asking more questions about their medicines.
“Just because something is sold without a prescription doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have strong effects, which is why it’s important that Australians start to think of medicines in a much broader sense,” Dr Stowasser said.
Australians were also unsure about identifying what was in their medicines – with 40% of those surveyed saying they would not be able to find the active ingredient on a medicine packet.
The survey results were released to coincide with the launch of Be Medicinewise Week.
This week will also see the launch of a series of free online learning modules for consumers, to help them make the best decisions about their medicines.
The Medicinewise Choices modules cover everything from what to consider before starting a new medicine to understanding clinical trials.
“Medicinewise Choices is about giving people the skills they need to play an active role in their own health care and make informed decisions about their medicines. It’s not enough to simply rely on your doctor or pharmacist, or get your information from websites that may not be accurate or independent,” Dr Stowasser said.
A key component of Medicinewise Choices is how to find and assess reliable information sources, particularly online where advice may be driven by commercial interests, be out-dated or not supported by evidence.
“Medicinewise Choices will help [consumers] discern between reliable and questionable sources, so they can use information from their own research to have informed discussions with their health professionals,” she said.
The Medicinewise Choices modules are available for free at www.nps.org.au/medicinewisechoices