What you need to know about using multiple medicines safely

Why do some people take more than one medicine?

You may take more than one medicine for one or more of the following reasons:
  • You have more than one health condition that needs treatment with a prescription medicine.
  • You need more than one prescription medicine to treat the same condition. This might be because each medicine works in a different way, or because one medicine may help another work better.
  • You buy non-prescription medicines from pharmacies, health food shops or supermarkets.

Avoiding unwanted effects

Any new unwanted effects can be caused by a medicine. Medicines can cause unwanted effects (side effects) when used alone or together.

Unwanted effects include:

  • nausea, headache, rash and change of bowel habits.

Other unwanted effects include:

  • poor control of urination, dizziness, falls, anxiety and sweating.

Medicines bought at pharmacies, health food shops and supermarkets may also have unwanted effects and can affect the way your prescription medicines work.

Don’t leave it to chance. You can avoid unwanted effects with medicine by talking to your doctor and pharmacist about ALL of your medicines.

Do not stop taking any medicine suddenly. Talk to your doctor if you wish to stop or change your medication.

Tips for managing your medicines

  • Be aware that all doctors and pharmacists involved in your care need to know ALL the medicines you take.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you to complete a list of all your medicines (MediList) including medicines bought at pharmacies, health food shops and supermarkets.
  • If you want more help with your medicines ask your doctor about a Home Medicines Review (HMR).

What should I do?

Use your medicines safely by:

  • Knowing what each of your medicines is for.
  • Knowing how to take them properly - at the right time and in the right dose.
  • Being aware that sometimes medicines can cause unwanted effects when used alone or together.
  • Contacting your doctor if unwanted effects occur.
  • Telling your doctor and/or pharmacist about all the medicines you are taking including medicines purchased from pharmacies, health food shops or supermarkets.
  • Asking your pharmacist or doctor for a Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet for each of your medicines.
  • Keeping an up-to-date list of all the medicines you take on a MediList card (available at most pharmacies).
Speak to your doctor and pharmacist about how you can use multiple medicines safely and get the best from your medicines.

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