Kidney Health Week

News - May 24, 2016

blood pressure

Kidney Health Week, which runs from 22-28 May, this year is using the theme of ‘I Kidney Check’ to encourage Australians to care about their own kidney health.

Activities include encouraging people to have blood pressure checks, an area in which community pharmacies can play an active role.

Kidney Health Australia says chronic kidney disease is known as the Silent Killer as an estimated 1.7 million Australian adults have signs of it and most don’t know.

People can lose up to 90 per cent of kidney function without being aware as there can be no warning signs and one Australian dies with kidney-related disease every 25 minutes.

In addition, people with chronic kidney disease have a two to three-fold greater risk of dying from cardiac death than people without the disease. For people with chronic kidney disease, the risk of dying from cardiovascular events is 20 times greater than the risk of requiring dialysis or transplantation.

However, early detection and effective management can halt chronic kidney disease or slow progression by as much as 50 per cent and Kidney Health Week promotes checks to help early detection.

For more details visit the Kidney Health Week website.


Changes to PBS

Medicines, News - January 8, 2016


Patients are urged to ask their pharmacist about significant changes to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) pricing arrangements and listings from 1 January, which may cause confusion among consumers.

The Australian Government has legislated that from 1 January 2016 the patient co-payment for dispensing prescriptions for medicines subsidised under the PBS can be discounted by up to one dollar.

Here are some facts about the optional $1 discount:

  • The cost of the discount is borne by the pharmacy, not the Government.
  • The discount is in fact a budget cut, saving the Government an estimated $373 million by delaying patient access to the Safety Net.
  • Concession Card patients who reach the Safety Net – after which they become eligible for free medicines – are entitled to know that the effect of the discount will be to delay their access to free medicines, providing no net annual financial benefit to them. They will have to fill additional scripts in the year to reach the Safety Net threshold amount.
  • Concession Card patients who take the discount must still spend the same total amount during the year to access free medicines on the Safety Net. If they take the discount their access to free medicines will start later in the year and the length of time they are eligible for free medicines will be reduced.
  • As the Minister for Health recognised as long ago as April 2015, patients in rural areas may be less likely to be able to access the discount. This means that for the first time in the 50 year history of the PBS co-payment, Concession Card holders in different parts of Australia may pay different prices for subsidised PBS medicines.

In the light of these facts, any suggestions that all Concession Card holders win from the optional dollar discount are highly questionable at best.

The elderly and chronically ill are, in fact, the subject of further imposts through the de-listing from 1 January of one of the highest volume PBS medicines Panadol Osteo.

Here are some facts about the de-listing of Panadol Osteo:

  • Panadol Osteo is a recommended first-line therapy for the pain management of osteoarthritis. There are an estimated 1.9 million sufferers of this chronic health condition in Australia.
  • Even before the GlaxoSmithKline price rise on 1 January, the ex-manufacturer price for 2 packs of 96 Panadol Osteo was higher than the amount paid by a Concessional Card holder under the PBS.   Government officials were notified during the Agreement negotiation that such ex manufacturer price rises had occurred with previous de-listings from the PBS.
  • Many people with chronic, debilitating osteoarthritis will pay significantly more for their treatment.  For example, Concession Card holders who normally reach the Safety Net in August previously paid $60.16 a year for their Panadol Osteo under the PBS.  They will now pay an estimated $180 a year, tripling their annual out-of-pocket costs.
  • As Panadol Osteo is de-listed from the PBS, it also no longer counts towards the Safety Net, meaning that Concession Card holders will have to purchase more PBS medicines before reaching the Safety Net. This further delays their access to free medicines.

This combination of changes to the PBS from 1 January means the sickest and neediest in our community – those with chronic illnesses such as osteoarthritis who normally reach the PBS Safety Net – will have their access to free medicines delayed and will pay more for their essential pain relief medicines.

Online-shoppers warned over online pharmacies

News - December 9, 2015

Australians may risk purchasing fake or adulterated products ... if they buy from online pharmacies that don’t comply with regulations.

The Pharmacy Board of Australia has cautioned Australians over fake or rogue online pharmacies that are not complying with regulations as they represent a danger to consumer health.

In a recent editorial in NPS MedicineWise’s Australian Prescriber, Pharmacy Board of Australia chairman Bill Kelly said Australian pharmacy businesses must address a number of regulatory and licensing requirements of the jurisdiction and of operational best practice.

“These [online] pharmacies generally supply drugs without a prescription and may or may not employ pharmacists. They are rarely licensed in the jurisdiction where they are located. To all intents and purposes they are not pharmacies and may not even have a shopfront,” he said.

Mr Kelly said a recent UK study of 113 online pharmacies selling diazepam, fluoxetine and simvastatin found that fewer than 25% were regulated and 80 were willing to sell prescription medicines without a prescription.

He said Australians may risk purchasing fake or adulterated products or inappropriate supply of narcotics and other controlled substances if they buy from online pharmacies that don’t comply with regulations.

Many consumers also risked buying products with a lack of supervision by a doctor or pharmacist, and unlicensed premises and staff.

“Australian health consumers should be vigilant about online pharmacies and standards and guidelines of the Pharmacy Board of Australia, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, and the accreditation requirements of the Quality Care Pharmacy Program need to be maintained,” he said.

“There should be appropriate governance of access to medicines, whether that be through a traditional walk-in pharmacy or via an online transaction.”

Read the full editorial in NPS MedicineWise’s Australian Prescriber.

National Pain Week

News - July 20, 2015


National Pain Week (20 -26 July) is about starting a conversation about pain and gaining feedback from those who suffer from chronic pain everyday.

Pain is the result of complex brain processes, influenced by overlapping physical, psychological and environmental factors.

All pain is an individual human experience that is entirely subjective and can only truly be appreciated by the person experiencing the pain.

A person’s pain experience can be strongly affected by their attitudes, beliefs and even their personality.

There are four distinct types of pain

  • Acute pain is pain that lasts for a short time and occurs following surgery or trauma or other condition. It acts as a warning to the body to seek help.
  • Sub-acute pain is pain that is progressing towards chronic pain, but this progression may be prevented. This is known as the transition phase.
  • Recurrent pain is pain that occurs on a cyclical basis, such as migraine or pelvic pain.
  • Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond the time expected for healing following surgery or trauma or other condition. It is often associated with an increased pain experience, not just in the area of injury, but also in surrounding tissue or nerves. It can also exist without a clear reason at all.

When acute pain becomes chronic

The human brain boasts a remarkable ability to change and effectively “rewire” itself, a concept known as “neuroplasticity”.

This is particularly important when it comes to pain. Acute pain that is left untreated or under-treated can lead to neuroplastic changes within the nervous system.

After tissue or nerve damage, peripheral nerve endings become sensitised to noxious stimuli. When combined with continued acute pain, this can trigger a “rewiring” of the brain and nerve signals.

The resulting pain “memory” leads to “pain sensitisation”, where pain signals are transmitted unnecessarily — long after the original source of pain has healed — and pain is now chronic.

Take a look at the National Pain Week website for more information. And as always, if you need help with your pain management, Ask Your Pharmacist.

Diabetes Awareness Week

News - July 13, 2015


This year’s National Diabetes Week (12 – 18 July) looks at how the disease affects the lives of hundreds of Australians on a daily basis.

As one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Australia, many Australians are affected by diabetes in some way.

According to a recent survey by Diabetes Australia about 280 people develop diabetes every day and that diabetes will become our number one burden of disease within the next five years.

To help raise awareness around the severity of the disease, Diabetes Australia has launched a national television advertisement, featuring 280 images of people – representing the 280 people who develop diabetes every day in Australia.

The aim of the campaign is to increase knowledge and understanding in the general population about diabetes so those that don’t have diabetes better understand the condition and can support those who do.

The ‘280 a day’ campaign will also address some of the misconceptions surrounding diabetes.

Diabetes Australia is calling on all Australians to support the campaign and help to raise awareness of diabetes during National Diabetes Week 2015.

Find out how you can get involved by visiting Diabetes Australia.

Men’s Health Week

News - June 17, 2015


Not everyone is comfortable with talking about their sexual health, even with a health care professional.

To help start a conversation about the health and wellbeing of men, Andrology Australia have kicked off their annual Men’s Health Week campaign (15-21 June).

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the health and wellbeing of Australian men by creating resources for pharmacies and other primary healthcare industries to connect with men and encourage them to talk about their health.

Andrology Australia said pharmacies play a vital role in providing credible sources of health advice and information for their local communities and invite Guild Members to celebrate Men’s Health Week.

According to Andrology Australia, nearly 100 men suffer a heart attack every day in Australia, with one dying of an attack every two hours.

Many pharmacies provide a few simple checks like cholesterol, blood pressure and weight to help indicate whether you’re at a higher risk of developing a serious condition.

To find out more on Men’s Health Week, visit

Red Apple Day

News - June 11, 2015


Australians are being reminded of the important role pharmacists play in the early detection of bowel cancer as part of Red Apple Day (17 June).

Red Apple Day is hosted every third Wednesday in June and encourages Australians to support the vital work of Bowel Cancer Australia by buying awareness ribbons and apple themed fundraising activities.

Bowel Cancer Australia says pharmacists can help make a difference in early detection of bowel cancer by talking to their customers as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and Red Apple Day.

Almost 15,000 Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and is the second most common cause of cancer deaths. But 90 per cent of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if detected early.

While bowel cancer affects men and women of all ages, medical guidelines recommend screening for bowel cancer every 1-2 years from age 50 as this is when the risk increases significantly.

Bowel Cancer Australia Chief Executive Julien Wiggins said pharmacists have a key role both in general awareness of bowel cancer and making screening available to anyone who wants to screen.

“We know pharmacists are seen as trusted health professionals and being so accessible to the community, they are well positioned to educate people about bowel cancer symptoms, risk factors and screening options,” he said.

“Pharmacies providing the BowelScreen Australia® program make screening available all year round.

“Bowel Cancer Australia continues to enjoy a strong relationship with pharmacists and we really appreciate the support they provide for our major campaigns, especially Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.”

Visit the Red Apple Day website to find out more about Awareness Ribbons and apple themed fundraising activities.

Bowel Cancer: Know The Facts

Bowel Cancer is the second biggest cancer killer with Australia having one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.

Some of the symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Blood in the bowel movement;
  • Unexplained weight loss;
  • Persistent change in bowel habit;
  • Severe abdominal pain.

Red Apple Day have plenty of helpful information and resources on bowel cancer and what to look for.






Flu vaccines

News - April 30, 2015


As predictions for this year’s flu season is tipped to be one of the worst with the number of cases rising year on year, it’s more important than ever that you and your family are immunised against the flu.

Since March 2015, the number of confirmed cases of flu stands at 4,838, more than 500 extra cases compared to last year. The flu is also responsible for more deaths in Australia than road accidents, with 1500-3500 reported every year.

The flu can be contracted all year round, the worst times are during the cooler months peaking around August. The best ways to avoid getting the flu is to get you and your family immunised with this year’s vaccine. As the flu virus changes each year, the 2015 flu vaccine has been modified to be active against two new strains of virus.

The flu is highly contagious and can be spread by infected people coughing or sneezing as well as from touching contaminated surfaces.

The flu is characterised by a sudden high fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, body aches and pains and feeling unwell.

The flu should not be thought of as a minor health problem – it can be seriously debilitating and can be life-threatening for high-risk patient groups such as people with heart or lung conditions or with immune disorders.

Pharmacy Immunisation Services and Advice

It’s now a lot easier to get your flu shots as more and more pharmacies offer an influenza immunisation service. Check with your local pharmacy if and when there may be a flu immunisation service for this season.

People in high-risk groups may be entitled to a free flu vaccine from their GP.

If you are showing cold and flu symptoms this winter, your local pharmacy can help you with symptomatic relief and advice on how to recover as quickly as possible and ensure that high-risk patients are seen to by their GP.

If you want to know more about the flu or about getting immunised against it, see your GP or Ask Your Pharmacist.


Medicine cabinets

Medicines, News - January 28, 2015


New Year’s resolutions come and go, but it’s never too late to make sure you have a clean and organised medicine cabinet.

Most of the medicines in your medicine cabinet you may need, but what about the yellow pills in a jar that’s lost its label, and the eye drops you’ve had for years?

To avoid your medicine cabinet becoming a health hazard, it’s important that you only store the medicines you need while discarding the expired or unused medicines.

A Department of Health study titled ‘Adverse drug events and medication errors in Australia’ in 2003 found that between 2-4 per cent of all hospital admissions were medication-related. Among patients aged 75 years and over, the figure was more than 30 per cent.

It’s estimated there are more than 230,000 medication-related hospital admissions each year at a cost of about $1.2 billion to the healthcare system.

There are number of ways to avoid confusion. One of the most efficient ways is by returning your old medicines.

Along with dispensing medicines, community pharmacies also dispose of medicines that consumers wish to discard.

Medications that are out of date are not only likely to be less effective, they have the potential to be dangerous to you or others.

Old medicines can become a hazard in your medicine cabinet over time because it can be difficult to remember who or what they were intended for. Worse still, once forgotten about, they can be picked up by children and taken accidently.

Just remember these three key points when clearing out your cabinet:

  1. Check expiry dates on all your medicines and separate all expired medicines into a container for return.
  2. Check that you actually need all the medicines – separate those medicines no longer needed into the container for return.
  3. Take the container to your local pharmacy for disposal.

Find out more on how to dispose of your medicines by visiting the Return Unwanted Medicines project.

Travel first aid kits

News - December 23, 2014


Just like a spare tyre, a fully stocked travel first aid kit is essential for any trip during the Christmas holidays. First aid kits carry vital tools and equipment that might help save a life during an emergency. But are you familiar with what’s in your kit?

Here are some quick tips on getting the most out of your travel first aid kits and being prepared for the worst. Remember to ask your pharmacist for advice on putting together your customised first aid kit.

Get a kit with the basics

A first aid kit should be stocked with the basics such as bandages, dressings, gloves, adhesive tape and scissors.

Kits could also include tweezers, sick bags, gauze, a first aid booklet, large dressing pads and saline solution. Most pharmacies stock a range of first aid kits in various shapes and sizes. If you’re unsure about what kind of first aid kit you’re after, ask your local community pharmacist.

Customise your kit

Not all kits will suit your particular travel needs, which is why you need to add a few extra things to make it an essential travel item. Think about who you are travelling with, what health conditions they may have, their age and whether they have any allergies. If you’re travelling with babies, your kit may need extra items such as a digital thermometer, basic pain reliever such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and plastic syringes for accurate dosing.

Also think about where you will be travelling. First aid needs differ between hiking, bike riding or swimming. For the car first aid kit, a highly reflective safety vest can be useful for traffic or busy roads. For campers, adding instant cold packs, disposable ponchos, plastic bags, whistle, compass, torch and glow sticks could help if you’re in a remote area.

Make the kit accessible

Kits should be stored in a dry cool location and be easily accessible. Medicines in the first aid kit may get damaged if exposed to high temperatures in cars parked in the sun. Medicines exposed to high temperatures should be safely discarded.

Everyone in the family should know where the kit is at all times in case of an emergency.

Regularly check use-by dates

Some items in kits, such as sterile solutions or tablets may have a use-by date and need to be replaced periodically. Regularly check that items are in good working order, have not deteriorated and are within their expiry date.

Checking the kit after each use will help ensure it’s always ready when you need it. If you have never used it, then once every 12 months. If you’ve used an item always remember to replace it.

Complete a first aid course

If you want to make the best use of your first aid kit you need the right training. Knowing what to do in an emergency could help prevent further injury or even save a life.

Many training organisations offer first aid courses all around Australia and it shouldn’t be too hard to find one available close to you.

What is the Ebola Virus

News - October 17, 2014


Ebola, virus disease (EVD), previously known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebolavirus strains.
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days. Symptoms include:

  • Fever (body temperature Fever Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained bruising or bleeding

Symptoms begin with a sudden onset of fever, headache, muscle aches and weakness. At this stage, infection with Ebola virus is difficult to diagnose as these symptoms can occur with many other viral infections. The next stage may include vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, rash and malfunctioning of the liver and kidneys. Cases may then progress to multi-organ failure often with internal haemorrhaging of these organs.

Antipsychotics & Dementia

Medicines, News - October 17, 2014


A short film to help doctors decrease the over-prescription of antipsychotic medication in people with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia has been released by Alzheimer’s Australia.

The film titled Antipsychotics & Dementia: Managing Medications, has been developed in response to recent research which has found that antipsychotic medication, which can have serious side-effects, is used too frequently to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

An Alzheimer’s Australia report, released in March this year, found that about half of people in aged care facilities and up to 80 per cent of those with dementia are receiving psychotropic medications. However, it also found that international data suggests that only 20 per cent of people with dementia who are receiving antipsychotic medication get any clinical benefits from it.

The report, The Use of Restraints and Psychotropic Medications in People with Dementia, also found that these medications can have a range of serious side-effects, including increased risk of stroke, increased risk of mortality, a greater chance of falls, and increased confusion.

Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO The Hon. John Watkins said the resource was a positive step in supporting GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals working with people with dementia in care homes and in the community in how best to deal with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Reducing dementia stigma

Mental Health - September 3, 2014


Alzheimer’s Australia has launched a new video to reduce the stigma associated with dementia. Alzheimer’s Australia has a vision to create a dementia-friendly nation, a place where people living with dementia are supported to live a high quality of life with meaning, purpose and value.

People with dementia want to be accepted for who they are, not defined by their diagnosis. Alzheimer’s Australia has launched a video sharing the stories of Glenda, Keith and Graeme, who are living with dementia, which encourages communities to understand what it is like to live with dementia and become dementia-aware.

Let’s help make Australia a dementia-friendly nation! Share the video with your friends and family today.

Watch the video


App helps you stay on your meds

- August 30, 2014

New app helps you stay on your meds

Thousands of Australians who don’t take their heart medicines as prescribed can now better manage their dosage and routine through a new smart phone app launched by the National Heart Foundation of Australia.

The free My Heart, My Life app will help people keep track of and remember to take their medicines.

The app also provides health stats, information about heart attack warning signs and a variety of recipes.

The app is available on iPhone, iPad or Android devices.

Visit the mobile app page

Visit the Heart Foundation

Osteoporosis website launched

- August 29, 2014

Do you or someone you care for suffer from osteoporosis?  The osteoporosis website has recently been updated with a new look, a range of new services and newly updated fact sheets where you can find a lot of information on coping with osteoporosis.

You can even ask a question of one of their experts and they’ll try to answer in their next audio podcast.

Visit the new website

Accidental Overdoses

Children, News - August 28, 2014

The Therapeutic Goods Administration says some people have expressed confusion over how to use measuring syringes supplied with Children’s Panadol 1-5 Years Colourfree Suspension. Incorrect measurements have the potential to lead to accidental overdoses.

The active ingredient in Children’s Panadol 1-5 Years Colourfree Suspension is paracetamol. Paracetamol has been used in Australia for the relief of pain and fever since the 1950s and is available in many different forms for adults and children.

Paracetamol is safe and effective when taken as directed on the label. However, if taken either in overdose or in amounts that exceed the recommended dose for more than a few days, the unwanted effects can be severe.

The syringe supplied with Children’s Panadol 1-5 Years Colourfree Suspension is shaped in such a way that the dose should be measured where the widest side of the plunger meets the barrel of the syringe. This differs from most syringes which measure to the tip of the plunger where the liquid finishes. With the Children’s Panadol syringe, the liquid continues past the tip of the plunger and therefore needs be measured to where the widest sides of the plunger meet the barrel of the syringe. If the dose is measured from the point where the liquid touches the end of the plunger closest to the nozzle, the dose is incorrect.

This example shows how to measure an 8 mL dose.


The TGA is working with GSK to address any potential for accidental over use, including whether an update to the packaging of Children’s Panadol 1-5 Years Colourfree Suspension to clarify the instructions on how to use the dosing syringe is sufficient or if other actions are also required.