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Tips for being medicinewise in rural or remote Australia

A new report has revealed 1.3 million rural and remote Australians do not take their medicines at all or as intended.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Adj A/Prof Steve Morris says the findings, published in the Medicine Safety: Rural and remote care report by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, highlight some of the unique and difficult challenges for people in rural and remote Australia when it comes to managing their medicines.

The report found that 72,500 rural and remote Australians are admitted to hospital each year due to medicine-related problems, with an estimated cost to the Australian healthcare system of $400 million each year, and at least half of this harm is preventable.

“We know that for many reasons it can be harder for people who live in rural and remote areas to access healthcare, but taking your medicine as prescribed or as directed is important,” said Mr Morris.

“Taking your medicines incorrectly—whether missing one dose or stopping it altogether—could mean you aren’t getting the full benefit, and you may be at risk of health problems caused by not sticking to your medicines routine.

“I encourage people living in rural and remote Australia to keep themselves and their families medicinewise by seeking out good medicines information, always following instructions from your doctor or pharmacist, and reading the labels and packaging of your medicines carefully,” he said.

Five tips to help people living in rural and remote areas to get the most out of their medicines, safely.

  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. You can use our Medicines List, or use our free MedicineWise app on your smartphone.

Seek out good medicines information

Other ways to seek out good quality, accurate, evidence-based information include looking up the Consumer Medicines Information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine on the NPS MedicineWise website ( or in our MedicineWise smartphone app.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call (calls from mobiles may cost more). Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEDT (excluding NSW public holidays).

To report a suspected problem with medicines or vaccines, call our Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237.

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