Safe use of medicines

Medicines go through a thorough process to make sure their therapeutic benefits outweigh their risks. But they can cause issues if not used properly. It’s important to know what medicines you’re taking, use them as directed, and know what to do if you travel.

Know what you’re taking

To make sure your medicine is right for your circumstances, it’s important that you understand what you are taking. This includes understanding:

Some medicines are not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, while others are banned for athletes competing in sports.

Read more about making wise choices when taking medicines.

Find more information about medicines through the:

Use your medicines as directed

It’s important to use any medicine only for a medical reason and in line with the instructions on the packaging and from your health practitioner. Some medicines can become addictive or cause an overdose.

You should take prescription medicines:

  • only if they have been prescribed to you
  • at the amount prescribed
  • for no longer than the period specified.

Read about the risks of medicine misuse and where to get support.

If you experience issues with a medicine, or if you believe a medicine is defective or counterfeit, you can report it to the TGA. The TGA investigates these reports as part of its regulatory role.

Don’t buy more than you need. Your medicines might go out of date before you use it, and we have measures in place to manage medicine shortages.

Track your medicines

When taking multiple medicines, keeping a medicine list using the MedicineWise app can help you to:

  • keep track of when and how to take your medicines
  • avoid doubling up on medicines
  • avoid negative interactions between medicines
  • inform your health practitioners, to help them make decisions about your health care.

If you take several prescription medicines using electronic prescriptions, you can create an active script list. This consolidates all the medicines your pharmacist can dispense to you, so you don’t need multiple tokens, making it easier to manage.

Your medicines can also be included in My Health Record to help your health practitioners make more informed decisions about your health care.

When antibiotics may or may not be prescribed

It’s important to reduce our use of antibiotics and only use them when necessary. The more we use antibiotics, the more bacteria can become resistant to them and harder to treat. Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to human and animal health.

Antibiotics work against bacterial infections, and different antibiotics work for different bacteria. But they do not work against viral infections, such as colds and flu.

Your health practitioner will assess your condition, and sometimes do some tests to find out which bacteria is causing the infection. They will then prescribe the most appropriate antibiotic if you need one.

Dispose of medicines safely

Do not throw medicine out in the bin or the toilet. Safely disposing of unused and expired medicines helps avoid accidental poisoning, medication misuse and toxic releases into the environment.

You can return medicine you no longer need to pharmacies participating in the Return of Unwanted Medicines Program. This is free, and the medicines returned are then destroyed in an environmentally friendly way using high-temperature incineration.

Travelling with medicines

If you are travelling with medicines, make sure you understand what you can take with you.

  • SmartTraveller provides information about travelling out of Australia with medicines and restrictions on medicines in other countries.
  • Services Australia provides information about managing your PBS medicines overseas.
  • The Office of Drug Control regulates travelling into and out of Australia with controlled substances.
  • Australian Border Force enforces the rules on what medicines you can bring into the country.

Watch this Therapeutic Goods Administration video about travelling in and out of Australia with medicines.

Read about travelling with medicines if you are a government employee living overseas.

Read about what we’re doing to make sure medicines supplied in Australia are as safe as possible.

Last updated: 
23 June 2022
Tags: 

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.