Online tool helps consumers make medicine choices: NPS
02/05/2012 - NPS has updated its online Medicine Name Finder with a new feature to help consumers make choices between medicine brands.
Designed to help people find important information about their prescription medicines, the tool has a quick and easy-to-use interface where users can type in the name of their medicine to find out more about the active ingredient and brands available, plus a link to the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet.
This new feature enables users to type in either the active ingredient or brand name of their medicine and, after selecting their prescribed dose, view a list of bioequivalent PBS-listed brands which they may be offered at the pharmacy.
CEO of NPS Dr Lynn Weekes says the new feature will help consumers identify the different brands available for their medicine, helping them to make a safe and confident choice.
"When the active ingredient of a medicine comes off patent, the number of available brands can quickly increase. This can be confusing, so it’s important people know that if the medicine they are offered has the same active ingredient and the same size dose as their original medicine, it will work the same in their body.
Using the Medicine Name Finder, people can quickly see a list of the different equivalent brands available so they can be sure they are taking the right medicine and avoid confusion."
Dr Weekes says that with the patent for Lipitor - a commonly-prescribed cholesterol medicine – expiring, a number of different brands will now be available in addition to Lipitor. It’s likely many people will be offered a different brand of medicine than the one they were originally prescribed, and may have been taking for some time.
"For people who take medicines regularly, it can be confusing if they are suddenly offered a different brand by their pharmacist. The brand name, the design of the packaging and even the colour or size of the tablets, may all look different.
"They may also find that the new brand costs less. But none of these factors are cause for alarm. You will only be offered a different brand of medicine if the active ingredient and the strength are the same or ‘bioequivalent’. Bioequivalence is the term used to describe the fact that it has been approved as having same effect in your body."
The best way to make a decision is to weigh up all the possible benefits of a brand with the potential drawbacks, Dr Weekes says.
"Price is one factor, but there are many other things to think about. For example, for people who are on multiple medicines, a brand which looks too much like your other medicines or has a similar name may cause more confusion and can lead to mistakes.
"The best thing to do if you are unsure is to talk to your doctor, pharmacist or other health professional who can help you make the best decision."
The data about medicines supporting the online tool is provided by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Division of the Department of Health and Ageing and will be updated monthly. The tool does not cover over-the-counter, natural, herbal or complementary medicines, or medicines that are not listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The NPS Medicine Name Finder is available at http://www.nps.org.au/consumers/tools_and_tips/medicine_name_finder
NPS has a variety of resources to help consumers navigate their medicine brand choices at http://www.nps.org.au/bemedicinewise/brand_choices
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