What Am I Taking? is Australian consumer guide to commonly used medications. I am proud to have played a key role in compiling it, because it addresses one of my principal areas of interest – the need for people to be educated about the drugs they are using.
You cannot really manage your medication use unless you have an understanding of what your drugs are for and how they work, how they can interact with other substances, their possible side effects and how to take them safely. But all too often people remain woefully under-informed, or even misinformed, about what they are taking. I hope What Am I Taking? will help correct this.
Let’s look at how most people get their drug information now.
Usually, when you see your doctor with a problem, you expect the solution to be in some form of medication. You can trust your doctor to prescribe medications safely and in your best interests, but often they will only give you a basic rundown on what the medication is and how to use it. Then, when you take the prescription to your pharmacy, the pharmacist will usually make a few standard checks – if you’ve had it before, if you’re taking anything else – and give you another brief rundown on anything you need to be careful about.
So, by the time you get your medication, the reality is that you’ll often only possess minimal information about it. And there’s no guarantee you’ll even remember any of that further down the track.
When you open the medication package, it will usually contain a CMI (Consumer Medicines Information) leaflet. The CMI is a useful resource, however it is not always ideal. Most are quite lengthy and often printed in very small type, and can appear overwhelming or difficult to read. They also don’t always list all the possible uses for the medication, which can be confusing if some of the advice doesn’t apply to the condition for which you are being treated.
Some people will read the CMI thoroughly. Others will throw it straight in the bin and a few may store it away for future reference. But, even if you read them carefully, the amount of information in most CMIs is a lot to digest and be able to recall.
Later, if questions arise about their medication, all too frequently people will turn to “Dr Google”. This is less than ideal, especially if you need reliable information in a hurry. Any search for drug information will bring up hundreds of links and it is a difficult task for people to discern which websites are credible. There are some reliable sites, but there is also a lot of misleading, inaccurate and irrelevant information on the web.
I believe everyone who is mentally capable should be informed about their medical conditions. They should know what medications they are on and understand what they are for, why they are important and what to watch out for when taking them.
This knowledge can empower you to take control of your health and take responsibility for managing your conditions. It can also help improve your care, as this important information is carried by you into every appointment or consultation with health professionals, assisting them to make informed decisions about your treatment.
What Am I Taking? is a reliable, easy to use reference, written in everyday language. It aims to aid consumers – including parents, family members and carers – better understand their medications. It contains profiles of 100 of the most commonly prescribed drugs, information on common medical conditions treated by the drugs, and other useful medicines information.