Consistent names are important, especially the names we use for important things like medicine ingredients.
For this reason, over the last few years the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been updating the Australian names of medicine ingredients. These updates bring our medicine ingredient names in line with the international names already in use in places like the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
This means that when you travel to these countries, you can still find your medicine even if it is sold under a different brand name to the one you are familiar with. The ingredient name will be the same as the one used in Australia.
Using international ingredient names also makes prescribing easier for Australian doctors who train in other countries.
Marion's story shows how you will know if there has been an important change to the name of a medicine you take.
Marion is 62, lives by herself, and takes a number of medicines for different conditions.
Because Marion takes different medicines, she pays particular attention to medicine ingredients. This helps her avoid an overdose of any one ingredient.
Marion uses an inhaler for long-term treatment of her asthma. This inhaler delivers the medicine ingredient 'eformoterol'. When she fills a repeat prescription for this medicine, she notices that the medicine label now says 'formoterol', with the name 'eformoterol' in brackets.
Marion has been seeing the same pharmacist for years and trusts them, but wants to make sure there hasn't been a mistake. Marion asks the pharmacist if this is the right medicine.
The pharmacist explains to Marion that the medicine is the same, and that only the ingredient name has changed. The pharmacist also explains that because this is a significant name change, the old name is still displayed on the label in brackets. This lets Marion know that a name change has happened.
Marion is satisfied and uses her inhaler to take her medicine as normal.
The Medicine Ingredient Formerly Known As
A little over 200 ingredient names have changed. A searchable list of the changes is on our website.
Some dispensing labels (the sticker label applied by doctors or pharmacists) are already using the new ingredient names. By May 2020, all new medicine packaging and Consumer Medicines Information will need to use the new names. Over time, medicines with old labels will start to disappear off the pharmacy shelves as they are sold.
Most changes are minor updates to how an ingredient is spelled. For example, the antibiotic 'amoxycillin' has been updated to 'amoxicillin'.
For bigger changes, we are using the new name but keeping the old name in brackets. For example, the rash and skin condition medicine 'trimeprazine' has been updated to 'alimemazine'. This is a big change, so the ingredient name will now display as 'alimemazine (trimeprazine)'.
Keeping the old name on the label in brackets means you will know about a change when you read the ingredient name. This 'dual labelling' with both names will continue until 2023. After 2023, we plan to phase out dual labels and just use the new name.
What should I do if I use a medicine?
What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. In the same way, a medicine ingredient by any other name will still do the same thing. Medicines aren't changing - just some ingredient names. A name change also has no impact on whether a medicine is included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
You should take your medicines as normal. Don't risk missing a dose because an ingredient name has changed. If you have any concerns about an ingredient name, talk to a doctor, pharmacist or other health professional.