This week is ‘Be MedicineWise’ week, which promotes the safe and effective use of medicines. Visit the website here.
Medicines play a useful, and sometimes critical role in our health, however we must take care to use them responsibly.
NPS, the independent, government-funded organisation behind MedicineWise, says there are five important questions that everyone should ask when using a medicine, whether it is an over-the-counter or prescription medicine:
- What is the medicine for?
- What is the active ingredient?
- How do I take or use this medicine correctly?
- What are the possible side effects and what can I do about them?
- What should or shouldn’t I do while taking this medicine?
There are other simple steps that you can take before using medicines to ensure the greatest level of safety.
Check that the container is not damaged
When you buy a medicine, check that it has not been opened. Most medicines come in tamper-evident packaging. Check that the barrier/seal is not broken before you buy.
Read the medicine label carefully
Read labels and any leaflets in the pack. The labels give you important and essential information about how to use the products correctly.
Sometimes product names appear similar but may contain different ingredients. This is called ‘umbrella branding’. Sometimes different brands may contain the same ingredients. Therefore, it is important to always read the label and to follow instructions.
Look for “change flags”
Note special “change flags”. They tell you about a change in the formulation or dose. Don’t assume a product is the same as the last one you bought. A change in formulation can affect how the product looks, e.g. colour, or how much you should take.
Check information about the medicine
Watch out for any special warnings. Check what ingredients are in the product. Check on the right dose for you – how much, how often, how long. Some medicines should not be used if you are already taking other medicines. Or a product may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions. The label will usually tell you.
Make sure the product you choose is the right one for you and your family. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you are not sure.
Do what the label says. Never use a medicine more often or in larger doses or for longer than recommended on the label. Only use the medicine for the indications shown on the label. Taking more than the recommended dose or taking it more frequently than recommended could be harmful.
Keep medicines secure
Keep all medicines out of the reach of children. Some products look attractive to children. Always keep medicines well away from them. It is a good idea to lock these products in a cupboard above the ground.
If the container has a child resistant cap, make sure you put it back on properly and tightly.
Don’t store for later
Check the ‘use by’ or ‘expiry’ date. All medicines lose their strength and effectiveness over time. Don’t assume a medicine you bought some time ago is still suitable. Ask your pharmacist to dispose of your out-of-date or unwanted medicines.
Talk to a health professional
Ask and you’ll get the answers you need. If you still have questions after reading the label, talk to your pharmacist or doctor. They can help you use your medicines safely and effectively.
For more information about the safe and effective use of medicines, please visit the ASMI website.