Know the active ingredients in your medicine.

New medicine regulations require doctors to include the active ingredient’s name when preparing prescriptions for medicines.

Active ingredients are the chemical compounds in medicines that have an effect in the body – in other words, the chemical in the medicine that makes it work.
These changes will mean that the active ingredients are easier to identify on medicine prescriptions.

Knowing what the active ingredient is in a medicine is an important part of staying safe when you take your medicines. Everyone should take an interest in their medication, because doctors will usually leave it up to patients to exercise their judgement – especially when many different and potentially interacting drugs are prescribed.

>While doctors will advise and take into consideration what they prescribe, they will be unaware of what else you might be taking from another doctor, or what non-prescription drugs you choose to take, especially if a patient is chronically self-medicating.

Duplication of the same ingredient

The same active ingredient can come in different forms, such as in a tablet or as a liquid, and can also be sold as different brands – so it’s important to know how to recognise the active ingredient to avoid putting yourself at risk.

Taking more than one medicine with the same active ingredient may mean that you are accidentally taking too much of that ingredient. It may then not work as well, you may be more likely to experience side effects, and it may even be harmful.

The changes to prescribing are part of an initiative by the Australian Government Department of Health to support the consistent and safer use of medicines and are part of the new national health priority for the quality use of medicines and medicine safety. Active ingredient information will now appear on prescriptions, medicines packaging, pharmacy dispensing labels and in My Health Record Shared Summaries.

Supporting people to recognise medicines by their active ingredient may help prevent people inadvertently taking an active ingredient they are allergic to, or taking an active ingredient that may interact with another medicine. The initiative will also encourage people to have more discussions about generic medicines as an option, with the potential to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for consumers as more generic and biosimilar medicines are used.

The new rules won’t, however, interfere with people’s choice of medicines, or a doctor’s ability to prescribe the medicine that best meets a person’s clinical need. Doctors can still select specific brands of medicine and can include a brand name on a prescription if they believe it’s necessary.

NPS MedicineWise has further discussion in their article: ‘Active ingredient prescribing: All you need to know’.