Dr Elisabeth Wearne: Knowing about multiple medicines

Listen to patients and health professionals speak about their experience with taking multiple medicines.

Dr Elisabeth Wearne
Main occupation: General practitioner
Years in clinical practice: 7
Qualifications: MBBS, FRACGP

Dr Elisabeth Wearne, GP, gives her views on what people should know about their medicines.

OK. I think certainly being aware of what the actual drug name is, so that when they're getting generics or cheaper brands from the chemist they’re really in the know about what they are actually taking. I think they need to know why they are taking each medication and why it's been prescribed and why it's important. I think they need to know how to take it and when to take it and, I must admit, I think a pharmacist is really important in that process. 

I've got a lot of things stuffed in my brain, but I often don't remember what needs to be taken before food and what's with food and what's half an hour before food. So, in a lot of ways, I'm reliant on a pharmacist to help with that information as well. I think a patient needs to know what the common and rare side effects are and I think this is often a sticking point, is that a lot of patients will not necessarily leave the doctor's office understanding what side effects to expect or not expect and what they're faced with is a big product information sheet or leaflet in the packet of medication. That's really scary to them. 

I have lots of conversations with patients who haven't taken what they've been prescribed, because they read the product information and it was scary. So I think patients need to ... when something is prescribed, they need to know what the potential side effects are and the risks are and what the risk/benefit decision has been. 

What else do I think they need to know? I think they need to know whether there’s any particular monitoring or reviews that need to be done on particular medications. The classic examples are the statins or the cholesterol medications. How often do they need to have their liver function checked, because that's a drug that can affect liver function? I think they need to have that sort of basic information. It's a tough balance to strike, giving someone too much information and actually just baffling them with information, as opposed to giving them enough to feel like they know what they're doing and they know what they're putting into their system.

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The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with Healthtalk Australia.