Generic Medicines: are they safe?

Are generic medicines safe?You’ve probably been to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled only to have a conversation that goes something like this:

Pharmacist: “Would you like a cheaper brand if it’s available?”

You: “Umm. What? A cheaper brand? Oh, um, I don’t know. Ah no, I’ll have the brand on the script, thanks.”

But what if that cheaper brand could do the same thing as the brand on the script, at a fraction of the price? Would you say ‘yes’ then?


Generic medicines — a bit like generic supermarket products

Just like supermarkets products have their generic equivalent, some medicines do as well. To understand why, you need to understand how medicines are developed.

After a pharmaceutical company develops a medicine, it takes out a patent on the product. This ensures that the company has the exclusive right to manufacture and sell that drug, meaning there is no competition from other pharmaceutical companies.

However, patents don’t last forever. When they expire, other drug companies are allowed to manufacture their own equivalent of the original medicine, in different packaging, providing these drugs are bioequivalent — that is, the medicine contains the same active ingredients. These medicines also meets the same government standards as the original medicine, for safety and efficiency. They are known as generic medicines.


Are generics the same as the original?

No. While generic medicines contain the same active ingredients as the original medication, and therefore have the same effect, some of the inactive substances may be different. For example:

  • binders and fillers (that hold tablets together)
  • flavourings
  • colourings
  • preservatives.

Are generic medicines safe?Most people will be able to take generic medications with no problems. However, some people may be allergic or intolerant to an ingredient the original branded medicine doesn’t contain. For example, some people may be lactose or gluten intolerant, or be allergic to some preservatives or colourings. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you.

It’s also worth noting that the potential side effects of the generic medication will be similar to the original one.


Should I take generics?

Overall, generic medicines are safe, efficient and can often save you money, but before taking them, ask your pharmacist the following five questions:

  1. Is it okay for me to choose a different brand of my medicine?
  2. What are the benefits and disadvantages for me if I use a different brand?
  3. Is there a difference in cost?
  4. Which of my usual medicines does this replace?
  5. What is the active ingredient in my medicine?

There are some generic medicines (such as warfarin), that may contain the same active ingredient but not be bioequivalent. In this case, stick with your usual brand. Your pharmacist should supply you with the brand that has been prescribed. Of course, if your doctor advises you to stick with one brand, then you should do so.

Most of the time, generic medicines are close enough to the original brand to be safe and effective. However, you have the final say in whether you take a generic substitute or the original medication.

For further information visit


The Write Way to Health blog is part of the portfolio of Write to the Point Communications.

 Melbourne health wrtier & bloger, copywriter & editor, researcher extraordinaire
Delivering high-quality health writing with exceptional customer service



Spring into fitness — safely

Spring into fitnessThere’s no doubt the warmer weather, and the impending beach season is good motivation to take up a regular exercise regime.

But are you exercising safely?


How much exercise do we need?

After emerging from the pile of blankets you’ve been hiding under during winter, usually a few kilos heavier, it can be tempting to start a gruelling exercise plan, in a bid to lose the winter weight. But overdoing it could increase your risk of injury.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines state that we should:

  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week
  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week.


Benefits of exercise

Many of us make the mistake of seeing exercise as a way to shed unwanted weight. And while exercise does help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, its benefits go beyond weight loss. Regular exercise leads to:

  • Increased muscle mass: The more muscle you have the higher your metabolism; which means it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increased muscle strength: This is important for balance and reduces your risk of injury.
  • Improved bone strength: The stronger your bones, the less risk of osteoporosis.
  • Healthy immune system: When your immune system is strong, you are less likely to get sick.
  • Decreased risk of chronic disease: Your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes are reduced.
  • Better energy levels: You will experience increased energy levels.
  • Reduced stress levels: You will be less stressed.
  • Improved sleep: Your sleep quality will improve.


Start out slowly

If it has been a while in between workouts, you need to start out slowly and gradually build up to the recommended amount. That means walking before you begin running; engaging in low-impact activities before you start high-impact activities; and lifting light weights before you graduate to heavy ones.

If you are overweight or have a pre-existing health condition, you should also seek the advice of your health practitioner.


active aprilStay safe

The whole point of exercise is to improve your health. So with that in mind, it’s worth considering the following safety tips:

  • Invest in shoes that will support your foot appropriately for the activity you will be undertaking.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, preferably clothing that will wick sweat away from your body.
  • Ensure you warm up and cool down correctly.
  • Stretch all the muscle groups properly.
  • Stay hydrated, particularly during warm or hot weather.
  • Apply sunscreen and wear a hat if exercising outdoors.
  • Pay attention to your nutrition, and eat food that will fuel your body. Don’t be tempted to starve yourself in a bid to lose weight quickly.
  • Enlist the help of a qualified personal trainer or exercise physiologist if you are unsure of how to perform specific exercises, or need assistance in developing an exercise program for your goals.
  • Stop if you feel pain of any kind.

Spring is a great time to get off the couch, get moving again and experience the great outdoors. But remember, ease into it gently and build your activity levels up gradually. Before you know it, exercise will be a normal, healthy part of your lifestyle.


The Write Way to Health blog is part of the portfolio of Write to the Point Communications.

Melbourne health writer & blogger, copywriter & editor, researcher extraordinaire.
Delivering high-quality health writing with exceptional customer service.

Occasional medicine users don’t get full benefit of medication

Pills And WaterRecent survey findings have revealed that occasional users of medicines — including prescription, over-the-counter, and alternative or complementary forms of medicines — are potentially not getting the full benefits from their medicines, compared to people who take medicines more often.

The survey (conducted for NPS MedicineWise by Galaxy Research) showed people who take medicines less often or who take fewer medicines are more likely to stop a course of medicine early without speaking to the health professional that prescribed or recommended the medicine to them, and less likely to follow instructions relating to their medicines

Furthermore, nearly 1 in 6 people (15%) don’t take their medicine as instructed, this is more common in those who are younger, those who take medicines less than daily, and those who take fewer medicines.


Why you should take your medicine

Medicines (whether short-term or long-term) are important in treating illnesses and sometimes preventing them, so you need to use them correctly to avoid further health complications.

Often medications are used for a short time, but there are some cases where your doctor may want you to keep taking medication for a longer period of time.

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Jeannie Yoo says that sometimes good reasons to stop taking a medicine, before stopping it’s best to first speak with a health professional such as a doctor, pharmacist or nurse.

“Taking your medicine as instructed, including taking the right dose at the right time, is also really important to help you improve your health outcomes,” she says.

stay safe with OTC medications“‘Even though you might be feeling better, if you don’t feel a medicine is helping you it’s always a good idea to speak to health professionals first to check that it is safe to stop the medicine. For example, some regular medicines need to be stopped slowly or to be replaced by another medicine to prevent serious effects on your health,” says Dr Yoo.

How to be medicinewise

To ensure your safety, and it’s important to be medicinewise. This means:

  • Understanding what your medicine is for
  • Reading the labels and packaging of your medicines carefully
  • Understanding how and when to take your medicine
  • Always following instructions from your health professional
  • Never sharing your medicine with anyone else, and ensuring young children can’t access it.

Equipping yourself with the NPS Medicine Wise MedicineList+ smartphone app (with its medicine reminders and links to medicines information) can help you manage your medicines safely and wisely.

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) or visit

Prepared from a media release from NPS Medicinewise 24 August, 2016

Tradies urged to take care

Construction workers positioning cement formwork framesAugust signals the annual Tradies National Health Month. It’s an opportunity to draw attention to the health of all of Australia’s tradies, who continue to have the poorest health and safety conditions of all workers across all sectors.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) leads Tradies National Health Month to educate tradies to keep a check on their safety, health and well being.


Tradies are most at risk

According to Safe Work Australia, tradies have among the highest serious injury and disease compensation claims in Australia. Labourers, technicians, and machinery operators and drivers are among the top four occupations when it comes to number of serious injury claims.

The majority of serious claims are from injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, including traumatic joint, ligament, muscle and tendon injuries. While backs still present the highest proportion of body stress injury claims, other body parts affected include upper limbs, lower legs, hips, the abdomen and the pelvic region.

Research also shows tradespersons, labourers and workers across the agricultural and construction industries have high risks of chronic health conditions.


Greater awareness needed

It is vital tradies become more aware and active in improving their health and safety. Early injury intervention and treatment through evidence-based care, including physiotherapy, must be part of the solution to prolong working careers, reduce time away from work and improve general well being.

Employers, peak bodies and government are encouraged to acknowledge the significant role they play in ensuring their workers are fit-for-work, and offer appropriate support when it comes to preventative health measures


Tips for preventing injury

The APA offer the following tips to prevent tradies injuring themselves at work:

  • ensure tasks are risk assessed regularly to reduce the strain
  • check the equipment you are using is adequate, easily handled and fit for purpose
  • use good posture and technique when handling objects eg: keep your chest up where possible
  • keep your core strong by exercising regularly
  • keep your flexibility by doing 5–10 minutes of stretching every morning
  • maintain quality sleep and nutrition to ensure you have the energy to remain well, alert and safe throughout the day.

For further information, or to find out how you can be involved, visit Tradies National Health Month visit



Stay well this winter with winning meals

Stay well with winter mealsAfter a bumper cold and flu season last year, dietitians are urging Australians to boost their immune system this winter by tapping into nutritious comfort foods.

According to the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), focusing on whole foods, including those containing vitamin C, zinc and protein, can help immunity – a useful weapon in fighting off the germs that cause colds and flu.

Figures from the Department of Health show more than 14,000 cases of the flu were reported in Australia last year, a 36 per cent increase from the year before.[i] And the flu accounts for 13,500 hospitalisations and 3,000 deaths among Australians aged over 50 years.[ii]

While healthy eating may not ward off germs entirely, DAA spokesperson Simone Austin said making nutritious meals a priority in the colder months can reduce the likelihood and severity of colds.

She added that a nutritious diet is particularly important in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, whose immune systems may already be compromised.

“Foods high in vitamin C include capsicum, broccoli, kiwi fruit, strawberries and citrus fruit. Zinc is found in fish, seafood, beef and lamb, which also provide good-quality protein. Baked beans and pumpkin seeds also provide zinc. So there’s plenty of nutritious and tasty options.

Spicy goulash soup with paprika.“Now that winter has finally arrived, it’s time to enjoy tasty, warming foods that give you, and your immune system, a boost,” said Ms Austin, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

According to Ms Austin, a nutritious winter diet need not be expensive or complicated.

She recommends nourishing winter meals, such as:

  • Beef and bean stew
  • Porridge topped with pumpkin seeds and chopped nuts
  • Warming seafood soup with added dark leafy greens and slices of capsicum
  • Grainy toast or a wholemeal muffin topped with baked beans
  • Delicious fruit crumbles, using fresh or frozen berries.

For tailored nutrition advice on keeping healthy this winter, DAA recommends seeking the support of an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

[i] Australian Government, Department of Health. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System. Viewed 2 June 2016

[ii] Australian Government, Department of Health. Influenza. Viewed 2 June 2016.

Further information: 
Dietitians Association of Australia

Based on a press release issued from the DAA 8 June 2016


Exercise…the right way!


Exercise Right Week 2016Our bodies are designed to move. Regular exercise and movement should be a natural part of our lifestyle. Unfortunately, more than half of all Australian adults are not active enough.

Exercise has many benefits for our health, including

  • Weight loss and/or healthy weight management: Regular exercise helps lose extra kilos, and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight
  • Increased muscle mass: This leads to a higher metabolism making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. It also improves your overall strength
  • Better appearance: Being fit, lean and healthy looks better than someone who doesn’t. And your clothes will also fit better!
  • Healthy immune system: A stronger immune system means you are less likely to get sick
  • Improved bone strength: This is really important to reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Decreased risk of chronic disease: You significantly reduce your risk of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • Better energy levels: Regular exercise leads to increased energy levels, meaning you get more out of life
  • Reduced stress levels: Exercise leads to less stress
  • Improved sleep: Regular exercise promotes better quality sleep.


How much should you do?

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none.

If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.

The current recommendations state that all Australian adults should be active on most, preferably all, days every week. Furthermore, we should aim to:

  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.


How do you start?

Everyone is unique and has their own goals and challenges. That’s why a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work.

If you haven’t been active in a while or are currently living with health challenges or injuries, it is wise to speak to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who can design a program suited to your particular situation.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists are allied health professionals who work in many settings. They hold a four-year equivalent university degree and specialise in the exercise and movement for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries.

They are able to help people with:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Mental health conditions
  • Cancer and cancer treatment recovery
  • Chronic pain and fatigue
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Neuromuscular exercise therapy
  • Pulmonary disease, and more.

They can also help you identify the right professional to work with, where you should exercise (i.e. a gym, pool), and what time of the day will suit you best.


Exercise Right Week

From 23 to 29 May 2016, Australia celebrates Exercise Right Week. If you’re not exercising enough, why not take this opportunity to get off the couch and into exercise.

Visit Exercise Right ( to take the Exercise Right Quiz, and to find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you.

There are so many benefits to regular exercise, so change your life and get moving today.

Further information

Exercise Right

Healthy and Active Australia Exercise Guidelines