Using medicines

Medicines are an important part of healthcare. Here are some useful links to help you with your use of medicines:

Where can I find out more about medicines and medical devices?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for regulating ‘therapeutic goods’.  Therapeutic goods include over-the-counter, prescription or complementary medicines, as well as medical devices, such as gloves, wheelchairs, bandaids etc.

You can find out information about therapeutic goods, including safety, general information about medicines and medical devices, travelling with medicines and reporting problems with medicines on the TGA website.

NPS Medicinewise provides medicines information, education and useful resources to help you with understanding and keeping track of your medicines.  On the NPS website you can access Consumer Medicines Information leaflets on prescription and pharmacy-only medicines, print out a medicines checklist and access medicines information in different langaguages. It also has a section devoted to Finding good quality information about medicines and a MedicineList+ app designed to help you manage your medicines and record why you’re taking them, as well as record other important health information including measurement and test results.

NPS and healthDirect operate Medicines Line. When you call 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) you will speak with an experienced registered nurse. Your question may be answered on the spot, or you may be referred to your GP or pharmacist, or to another health professional. If you have a complex enquiry you may be put through to a NPS pharmacist.

What’s the difference between Generic Medicines, Prescription Medicines, Complementary Medicines and Over-the-Counter medicines?

NPS Medicinewise has lots of information to help you understand your medicine.  Here’s their definition on some different types of medicine:

Prescription Medicines are medicines only available by prescription from a healthcare professional with prescribing rights (e.g. doctors, dentists or nurses with prescribing rights).

Brand Medicines are medicines using the same active ingredient as a prescription medicine that is now ‘off patent’ and able to be produced by different medicine manufacturers. 

Complementary Medicine are also called herbal, natural and alternative medicines. They include products containing herbs, vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, homoeopathic medicines, certain aromatherapy products and traditional Chinese medicine.

Over-the-counter medicines:If a medicine is available ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC), it means you don’t need a prescription to buy it.

What should I do if I think my medicine caused a problem or an ‘adverse event’?

In case of Emergency call 000

You should talk over problems you think may be related to your medicines with your doctor.

In non-emergency situations you can also call the Adverse Medicine Events line: 1300 134 237 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Standard Time, excluding public holidays).

The Therapeutic Goods Administration also has information on reporting problems with medicines and medical devices.

How should I dispose of out-of-date or unused medicines?

The Return Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project is a national scheme that provides for unwanted and out-of-date medicines to be collected by community pharmacies from consumers. The medicines are then disposed of by high temperature incineration, which is the EPA approved method of disposal. To find out more, ask your pharmacist or visit the Return Unwanted Medicines website.

Would you like to talk about your experience with medicines or share your ideas on how we can ensure that consumers get the information they need to make the best use of their medicines?  Do you know of some great resources or programs that help?  Share them in our ‘Have a say’ forum.

Information and links provided on OurHealth are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.