'Risks and benefits': How to better manage your medicines

GOOD ADVICE: Learn to ask the right questions from the right people, about your medications.
GOOD ADVICE: Learn to ask the right questions from the right people, about your medications. luchschen

THE more people understand about their medicines by collecting more information, the less likely there will be medication-related problems counsels COTA Victoria peer educator Annette Davies.

"All medicines have risks and benefits, so it's a matter of a trade-off between those risks and benefits," Ms Davies said. "And if you understand what they are, you are better able to manage your own medicines."

What is a medicine?

  • It can be on prescription or bought over the counter.
  • It's something that is designed to alter the way your body works.

"If you expect to make a difference to your body, then by definition it's a medicine," Ms Davies said.

Ask questions at surgery and pharmacy

  • Try to learn more about what you are taking and why.
  • When you are given a new medicine, ask what is it for, what does the doctor expect it to do, how long is it going to take to work and how long do you have to take it for?
  • When you collect your medicine, look on the label and see if it's what you're expecting it to be.
  • Ensure you understand the instructions. If not, while at the pharmacy counter, ask the pharmacist to explain.
  • Know when to take it; such as before, after or with food, and if you can take it with other medicines.


  • At the pharmacy get the staff to check your technique for using the inhaler. This check should be done regularly by your doctor or pharmacist.

Medicine information sheet

  • Most medicines have this sheet included in the container. If not, you can ask the pharmacist for it.
  • If you are starting a new medicine and you are not feeling the way you expected, check this sheet and then contact your GP to ask what to do.

Other top tips

  • Always make a decision in consultation with your doctor.
  • Carry a list of your current medications with you in your bag or wallet. It's a great time saver in an emergency.
  • Use the same doctor and pharmacist to help build familiarity so when there are changes with you, they will be more aware.
  • Get your advice from a pharmacy where the staff listen to you, where you are treated as a person and they have your interests at heart.

For more medication information, go to

Topics:  cota health advice medical medications wellbeing

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