Published: 25 November 2019


Taking Multiple Medicines? Support the health care system by reporting suspected side effects this #MedSafetyWeek

25 November 2019

Medicine regulatory authorities across the world are this week launching a social media campaign to raise awareness of medicine side effects and the importance of reporting them.

This year’s campaign focuses on polypharmacy, (taking multiple medicines) and how reporting side effects helps protect patients.

It is the fourth annual #MedSafetyWeek, a joint effort between 57 medicine regulatory authorities across the globe.

Polypharmacy is defined as the simultaneous use of four or more prescription, over-the-counter or traditional medicines at the same time. Polypharmacy increases the likelihood of a patient having side effects, due to the increased risk of interactions between medicines, and with foods or herbal products.

Although polypharmacy is common in older people, anyone who routinely uses multiple medicines at the same time can be affected. This includes people with long-term chronic conditions, who regularly take multiple medicines. Studies show that one third of people over 75 years old take at least six medicines, with over a million people taking eight or more medicines daily.

Medsafe Group Manager Chris James said:
Protecting patients is our top priority. There are risks associated with polypharmacy. Patients, including their carers, and healthcare professionals are asked to report their suspicions of side effects to CARM. Online reporting is easiest -

Reporting helps to improve the safety of medicines for all patients. We use this information to help prescribers understand the risks and benefits or medicines so they can make better medicine choices with their patients.

Medsafe is encouraging people to report medicine side effects to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM). Online reporting is easiest -


  1. #MedSafetyWeek will run from November 25 to November 29, 2019. The campaign is a joint effort between 57 medicine regulatory authorities across the globe. It aims to raise awareness on the prevalent topic of polypharmacy amongst patients, carers and healthcare professionals, and highlights the importance of reporting suspected side effects experienced when taking multiple medicines, via national reporting systems such as CARM ( The participating medicine regulatory authorities are encouraging healthcare professionals to review their patients’ medications intake, especially when prescribing and administrating multiple medicines, as well as being vigilant to monitor, detect and report suspected side effects to CARM. Reporting plays an important role in helping Medsafe monitor the safe use of medicines to protect public health through effective regulation.
  2. Medsafe is responsible for protecting and improving the health of millions of people every day through the effective regulation of all medicines in New Zealand by ensuring they work and are acceptably safe. All our work is underpinned by robust and fact-based judgements to ensure that the benefits justify any risks.
  3. This campaign forms part of a global initiative led by Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) – the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring – in collaboration with the Heads of Medicines Agencies (HMA) and the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities (ICMRA).
  4. It is important to report suspected side effects as patient susceptibility to experiencing a side effect can increase with age, when medicines are not being metabolised as efficiently as before or the patient is more sensitive to their effects. Patients who take multiple medicines can also experience increased drug–drug interactions inside the body. Every report helps in understanding the benefits and risks of medicines in clinical use and can lead to the discovery of previously unknown side effects and interactions.
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