It is important that people are informed about the medications they are taking, for many reasons: for their safety, to help improve their management and long term health outcomes and so they can give their health care providers the information they need to make important decisions regarding their treatment.
Currently in Australia, and around the world, there are limited medicines information resources to provide to patients. In Australia, the universally accepted form of written information to give patients when they start on a new medication is the consumer medicines information leaflet(CMI) which is produced by the drug manufacturer. The CMI is the only recognised, accessible and informative document routinely made available to medication users.
CMIs are often quite wordy documents and, for many consumers, they can be hard to navigate or interpret. For some people they can actually be quite overwhelming or confusing. For these reasons, my own policy is that information relevant to each individual should be highlighted and discussed with the patient when the CMI is provided.
Despite the perceived shortcomings of CMIs, it remains important to give people written information. Even if things are verbally explained multiple times, they are not going to remember everything.
There is an abundance of evidence to show that people who are educated about their illnesses and medications, and who are engaged with their treatment, often do far better than others. Understanding your medications is the first step.
What Am I Taking? is an excellent resource for people to refer to from time to time, to remind themselves what they are taking, how to take it, possible interactions or side effects and any other precautions or important information. Knowledge is powerful and the more the patient knows about their medications and health, the more control they can have of their overall health and well-being.
Medication errors occur frequently and are most often due to the user not being aware of important and sometimes basic information. Even someone who has been taking a medication for many years may have been doing so incorrectly and may be just lucky that nothing serious has happened. What am I taking? can help people identify things they have missed or misinterpreted before it is too late.
Carers who are administering or overseeing medications should know what the medications are and any other important information about them. These include carers in nursing homes or nurses visiting patients in their homes. Loved ones or family members should also be informed about medications being used, so they can keep check of everything and take over or assist with management if necessary.
However medication errors are not always due to the user. We are all human and sometimes doctors make mistakes and sometimes pharmacists don’t pick things up, so if you are switched on and know your medications, you can potentially pick these things up to protect yourself.
Doctors and pharmacists are busy people and, while they do their best to provide their patients with the information and support they need, they often are limited by time pressures. What Am I Taking? can provide patients with important information and any unanswered questions can be followed up with their doctor or pharmacist.
What Am I Taking? is also an excellent reference for pharmacists, particularly pharmacy students, and other health care providers to refer to for fundamental counselling points and practical medicines information.
What Am I Taking? is a useful and practical medicines information resource which can be referred to by any Australian who is taking medications, or knows or helps someone who is taking them. Being educated about drugs is the key to ensuring their safe and effective use.