Quality Use of Medicines

Australia has a National Medicines Policy. Its goal is healthy consumers. The National Medicines Policy has four objectives, one of which is Quality Use of Medicines or QUM.

Quality Use of Medicines means using medicines appropriately to improve health. It includes:

  • deciding what is the best way to treat and prevent illness and poor health;
  • if a medicine is considered necessary, choosing the most suitable medicine; and
  • using the medicine safely and effectively to get the best possible results. This means following all instructions for taking the medicine correctly.

To promote QUM, the National Strategy for Quality Use of Medicines was developed. The National Strategy states that everyone has a part to play in Quality Use of Medicines, and that activities should be based on a partnership approach with consumers.

QUM and the National Medicines Policy


Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing 2002, The National Strategy for Quality Use of Medicines, Canberra. Copyright, Commonwealth of Australia, used with permission.

Golden Rules for Using Medicines

1. Check that the container is not damaged
When you buy a medicine, check that it has not been opened. Most medicines come in tamper-evident packaging. Check that the barrier/seal is not broken before you buy.

2. Read the medicine label carefully
Read labels and any leaflets in the pack. The labels give you important and essential information about how to use the products correctly.

3. Look for “change flags”
Note special “change flags”. They tell you about a change in the formulation or dose. Don’t assume a product is the same as the last one you bought. A change in formulation can affect how the product looks, e.g. colour, or how much you should take.

4. Check information about the medicine
Watch out for any special warnings. Check what ingredients are in the product. Check on the right dose for you – how much, how often, how long
. Some medicines should not be used if you are already taking other medicines. Or a product may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions. The label will usually tell you.

Make sure the product you choose is the right one for you and your family. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you are not sure.

5. Follow directions
Do what the label says. Never use a medicine more often or in larger doses or for longer than recommended on the label. Only use the medicine for the indications shown on the label
. Taking more than the recommended dose or taking it more frequently than recommended could be harmful.

6. Keep medicines secure
Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
Some products look attractive to children. Always keep medicines well away from them. It is a good idea to lock these products in a cupboard above the ground.

If the container has a child resistant cap, make sure you put it back on properly and tightly.

7. Don’t store for later
Check the ‘use by’ or ‘expiry’ date
. All medicines lose their strength and effectiveness over time. Don’t assume a medicine you bought some time ago is still suitable. Ask your pharmacist to dispose of your out-of-date or unwanted medicines.

8. Talk to a health professional
Ask and you’ll get the answers you need
. If you still have questions after reading the label, talk to your pharmacist or doctor. They can help you use your medicines safely and effectively.