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TGA consumer survey 2018

20 December 2018

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Attitudes and beliefs - Medicines and complementary medicines

The survey asked participates to highlight their level of agreement across a range of statements relating to Medicines and Complementary medicines. Overall there is a comparatively high level of trust in medicines when compared to complementary medicines.

Medicines

Overall levels of agreement are strongest in relation to confidence that medicines are genuine (71% Nett agreement; 8% Nett disagreement) and are a result of high manufacturing standards (70% Nett agreement; 7% Nett disagreement). Low levels of disagreement are also observed for both of these measures (Table 55). Trust in medicines available in pharmacies (69% Nett agreement; Nett disagreement 12%) is also strong, although more than one in ten participants expressed disagreement with this statement.

Participants generally tend to agree that medicines are appropriately regulated (61%), the risks of medicines are balanced against their positive impact (62%) and are confident that the government monitors to identify safety issues (64%). However across all of these measures around 15% of participants disagree with the sentiments expressed. Lower levels of agreement and substantial levels of disagreement are recorded in relation to the safety of prescription medicines (54% Nett agree; 18% Nett disagree).

Statements focussing on Medicines available in Pharmacies and those available in supermarkets highlight a stronger level of trust in Pharmacy sold medicines. Sixty nine percent (69%) of participants highlight that they trust medicines available in pharmacies (12% Nett disagree), compared to 45% of people who agree that they trust medicines available in supermarkets, where high levels of disagreement are also recorded (20%).

Table 55: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia. Please select your level of agreement with each statement.
Statement Nett disagree Strongly disagree Disagree Neither Agree Strongly agree Nett agree N
Prescription medicines are safe 18.2 5.6 12.6 28.3 42.7 10.9 53.5 1629
Prescription medicines are appropriately regulated 15.9 4.4 11.5 22.8 48.6 12.8 61.3 1629
Medicines are manufactured to a high standard 6.8 2.1 4.7 23.0 54.0 16.3 70.2 1629
I trust the medicines available in pharmacies 12.4 4.1 8.3 19.0 52.7 15.8 68.6 1629
I trust the medicines available in supermarkets 20.3 5.2 15.0 34.4 38.0 7.4 45.4 1629
I am confident that the medicines I buy are genuine 8.3 2.5 5.9 20.6 56.4 14.7 71.0 1629
I am confident that the government monitors medicines to identify safety issues 14.9 5.3 9.6 21.4 47.8 16.0 63.8 1629
I believe that the risks of medicines are balanced against their positive impact 15.6 5.5 10.1 22.5 48.4 13.5 61.9 1629

Base: All respondents

Outcomes across the two sample frames in the survey show a consistent pattern of higher levels of Nett agreement amongst those in the population based (Panel) sample when compared to those who voluntarily opted-in to the survey (Figure 32 and Table 56). The differences include large discrepancies of 10% Nett agreement or more across measures focussing on Safety (58% Population (Panel) sample; 46% Opt-in), Trust in pharmacy based medications (73% Population (Panel) sample; 60% Opt-in), Trust in supermarket medications (49% Population (Panel) sample; 38% Opt-in), Government monitoring of the safety of medicines (71% Population (Panel) sample; 51% Opt-in) and the Balance between risks and benefits of medicines (68% Population (Panel) sample; 51% Opt-in). Overall, these patterns reflect a substantially more positive view amongst the broad Australian community when compared to the more targeted groups who accessed the survey through networks and existing connections to the TGA and its business.

Figure 32: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - by sample source - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 56 data

Table 56: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs by sample (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia. (Nett agreement %)
Statement Overall Opt-in Population
Safe 53.5 45.9 57.8
Appropriately regulated 61.3 56.8 63.8
Manufactured - High standard 70.2 64.9 73.2
Trust pharmacy meds 68.6 60.3 73.2
Trust supermarket meds 45.4 38.4 49.3
Meds genuine 71.0 66.3 73.7
Gov Monitors safety 63.8 51.4 70.7
Risks balanced against positives 61.9 50.5 68.3

In addition to the overall differences across the sample sources in the survey, within the sample groupings some key identifiable differences are observable. One notable difference is in relation to age breakdowns within the two samples. In the Opt-in sample there is a strong pattern showing generally higher levels of nett agreement amongst younger participants, particularly those in the 18-34 age group (Figure 33 and Table 57). In contrast, within the population (Panel) based sample this pattern is reversed, with those in the oldest grouping consistently showing the highest level of Nett agreement and those in the youngest grouping consistently showing the lowest levels of Nett agreement (Figure 34 and Table 58).

The aged based pattern of higher Nett agreement amongst younger participants in the Opt-in sample is evident across seven of the eight measures, with the measure focussing on appropriate regulation of medicines being the single exception where those in the oldest grouping showed the highest level of Nett agreement. Of particular note here are four statements where the level of Nett agreement amongst the youngest group is substantially higher than the overall average within the Opt-in sample. These are:

  • I trust medications available in supermarkets - 18-34 year olds 59% Nett agreement; Overall 38% Nett agreement.
  • I am confident that the medicines I buy are genuine - 18-34 year olds 80% Nett agreement; Overall 66% Nett agreement.
  • I am confident that the government monitors medicines to identify safety issues - 18-34 year olds 69% Nett agreement; Overall 51% Nett agreement.
  • I believe that the risks of medicines are balanced against their positive impact - 18-34 year olds 61% Nett agreement; Overall 50% Nett agreement.
Figure 33: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by age - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 57 data

Table 57: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by age - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia. (Nett agreement %)
Age Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust pharmacy meds Trust supermarket meds Meds genuine Gov Monitors safety Risks balanced against positives
18-34 51.9 53.7 68.5 66.7 59.3 79.6 68.5 61.1
35-54 39.9 48.9 62.7 59.7 37.8 64.4 48.1 47.6
55+ 49.3 63.5 65.9 59.5 34.8 65.2 50.7 50.7
Total 45.8 56.8 64.8 60.2 38.3 66.2 51.3 50.4

The pattern of higher Nett agreement amongst older participants in the Population (Panel) sample is consistent across seven of the eight measures and shows a strong overall association of increasing agreement with older age groupings (Figure 34 and Table 58). The single exception here is in relation to trust in supermarket medications where younger participants appear more likely to express agreement (18-34 years 55% Nett agreement; Overall 49%).

Figure 34: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by age - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 58 data

Table 58: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by age - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia.
Age Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust pharmacy meds Trust supermarket meds Meds genuine Gov Monitors safety Risks balanced against positives
18-34 51.0 55.0 67.2 70.1 55.0 70.7 65.5 59.5
35-54 56.9 60.6 70.9 68.9 50.6 73.7 69.4 69.4
55+ 65.7 76.2 81.7 80.8 42.2 76.7 77.3 76.2
Total 57.8 63.8 73.2 73.2 49.3 73.7 70.7 68.3

Gender differences across both the Opt-in and Panel samples show males are more likely to agree across the range of statements presented in relation to Medicines (Figures 35 and 36 and Tables 59 and 60). While the general direction of the pattern is consistent across both sample groups, within the Opt-in sample the difference between males and females is substantially greater than the small differences (mostly under 5%) observed between males and females in the population based (Panel) sample. This difference is also notable in that females outweighed males in the Opt-in sample by a factor of two to one, with the result that the lower outcomes amongst this sub-group are a strong driver of the overall outcomes observed across the entire sample.

Figure 35: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by gender - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 59 data

Table 59: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by gender - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia.
Gender Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust pharmacy meds Trust supermarket meds Meds genuine Gov Monitors safety Risks balanced against positives
Female 36.0 49.6 56.2 54.9 36.5 63.8 48.0 43.3
Male 67.0 72.2 82.0 71.6 42.3 71.1 58.8 64.9
Figure 36: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by gender - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 60 data

Table 60: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by gender - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia.
Gender Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust pharmacy meds Trust supermarket meds Meds genuine Gov Monitors safety Risks balanced against positives
Female 53.9 61.2 71.4 70.7 49.0 73.4 69.1 67.0
Male 61.7 66.5 75.2 75.8 49.3 74.1 72.6 69.7

Those in capital city locations tend to show slightly higher levels of Nett agreement across a range of measures in comparison to other regional areas (Figures 37 and 38 and Tables 61 and 62). This observation is true across both the Opt-in and Panel based samples, with capital city based respondents showing the highest level of agreement across almost all measures from both sample groups.

Figure 37: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by location - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 61 data

Table 61: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by location - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia.
Region Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust pharmacy meds Trust supermarket meds Meds genuine Gov Monitors safety Risks balanced against positives
Capital city 51.3 62.0 69.0 64.6 41.5 71.5 57.3 56.3
Regional city/town 38.9 50.8 61.1 57.8 37.3 62.2 44.3 42.2
Regional/Rural area 43.0 50.6 58.2 48.1 26.6 54.4 44.3 48.1
Total 45.9 56.8 64.9 60.3 38.4 66.3 51.4 50.5
Figure 38: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by location - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 62 data

Table 62: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs - population (Panel) sample by location - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines (including prescription and non-prescription) that are available in Australia.
Region Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust pharmacy meds Trust supermarket meds Meds genuine Gov Monitors safety Risks balanced against positives
Capital city 61.4 67.9 75.9 74.8 49.9 75.2 72.3 71.9
Regional city/town 51.5 56.7 67.0 72.5 46.8 71.2 66.1 60.1
Regional/Rural area 43.9 47.6 67.1 61.0 51.2 67.1 69.5 59.8
Total 57.8 63.8 73.2 73.2 49.3 73.7 70.7 68.3

In addition to the demographic differences outlined, the propensity to agree and disagree with statements related to medicines is also strongly moderated by experience of side effects related to a medicine or medical device. Those who report that they have experienced side effects are generally less likely to agree across the range of statements presented (Figure 39 and Table 63) and more likely to disagree. Differences of 10% or more in the level of nett agreement are observed on seven of the eight statements presented, with the only statement recording a difference of less than 10% focussing on confidence in the genuine nature of medicines.

Figure 39: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs by experience with side effects - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 63 data

Table 63: Medicines - attitudes and beliefs by experience with side effects - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Medicines statement Experienced side effects
Yes No
Safe 41.9 59.6
Appropriately regulated 54.5 64.9
Manufactured - High standard 63.5 73.7
Trust pharmacy meds 59.7 73.2
Trust supermarket meds 36.2 50.1
Meds genuine 67.3 73.0
Gov monitors safety 55.2 68.2
Risks balanced against positives 53.8 66.2

Complementary medicines

Attitudes toward complementary medicines in the survey were tracked in relation to agreement across five broad statements. Overall, the responses here show that there are considerable concerns relating to complementary medicines held by survey participants. These concerns are reflected in high levels of disagreement and relatively low levels of agreement across the statements presented (Table 64). Further, large numbers of participants express a neutral (Neither agree nor disagree) opinion, reflecting a potentially high level of uncertainty in relation to these medicines.

The highest level of disagreement occurs in relation to the statement that Complementary medicines are appropriately regulated (Nett disagreement 38%). This statement also attracts the lowest level of agreement (26%). One third of responses agree and a further third disagree that I trust the government monitors complementary medicines to identify safety issues. One third of participants Agree or Strongly agree that Complementary medicines are safe and more than one in five disagree that this is the case. This pattern is also similar to that identified for the remaining statements focussing on the standard of manufacturing and trust in complementary medicines.

Overall, the findings here highlight significant opportunities to communicate the role of the TGA in regulating and monitoring the safety and quality of complementary medicines as well as the procedures and checks in place to ensure quality standards are established and maintained.

Table 64: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines (such as vitamins, minerals, herbal or aromatherapy products) that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (%)
Statement Nett disagree Strongly disagree Disagree Neither Agree Strongly agree Nett agree N
Complementary medicines are safe 21.7 6.3 15.4 44.3 27.4 6.6 33.9 1623
Complementary medicines are appropriately regulated 37.8 13.3 24.5 36.3 21.6 4.3 25.9 1623
I am confident that complementary medicines are manufactured to a high standard 28.8 11.3 17.6 39.1 25.0 7.1 32.0 1623
I trust complementary medicines 30.6 12.4 18.2 36.7 25.4 7.3 32.7 1623
I trust that the government monitors complementary medicines to identify safety issues 32.9 12.3 20.6 33.7 25.9 7.5 33.4 1623

Base: All respondents

Across the sample sources in the survey it is clear that the attitudes toward complementary medicines are more positive (reflected in higher level of agreement) in the population based (Panel) sample when compared to the Opt-in sample (Figure 40 and Table 65). Notably, across the two measures focussing on the role of regulation and government, levels of Nett agreement are more than double in the population sample compared to the Opt-in sample (Appropriately regulated: Population 32% Nett agreement, Opt-in: 15%; Government monitors safety: Population 42% Nett agreement, Opt-in 18%).

Figure 40: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - by sample source - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 65 data

Table 65: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs by sample source - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines (such as vitamins, minerals, herbal or aromatherapy products) that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agree %)
Statement Overall Opt-in Population
Safe 33.9 25.8 38.5
Appropriately regulated 25.9 14.5 32.2
Manufactured - High standard 32.0 20.6 38.4
Trust 32.7 23.9 37.6
Gov monitors safety 33.4 18.2 41.8

Base: All respondents

The results in the Opt-in sample reflect a substantial lack of trust and confidence in safety, regulation and monitoring around complementary medicines in this group (Table 66). For all measures, the overall level of Nett disagreement is well in excess of the level of Nett agreement observed. Concerns are particularly high in relation to perceptions around appropriate regulation of complementary medicines (60% Nett disagreement; 15% Nett agreement), the role of government in monitoring the safety of complementary medicines (54% Nett disagreement; 18% Nett agreement) and manufacturing standards (48% Nett disagreement and 21% Nett agreement).

Table 66: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines (such as vitamins, minerals, herbal or aromatherapy products) that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (%)
Statement Nett disagree Neither Nett agree
Safe 39.3 34.9 25.8
Appropriately regulated 60.2 25.3 14.5
Manufactured to high standard 47.8 31.7 20.6
I trust complementary medicines 47.4 28.7 23.9
Government monitors safety 53.8 28.0 18.2

Base: All respondents

While substantial levels of disagreement across measures is observed in the population based sample it is notable that in all cases the proportion of those who disagree is outweighed by those who agree with the statements (Table 67). Despite this, substantial numbers of the sample disagree across the range of measure presented. Levels of neutral (Neither) response are also considerably higher amongst this sample when compared to the Opt-in sample.

Table 67: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines (such as vitamins, minerals, herbal or aromatherapy products) that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (%)
Statement Nett disagree Neither Nett agree
Safe 12.1 49.5 38.5
Appropriately regulated 25.5 42.4 32.2
Manufactured t high standard 18.4 43.3 38.4
I trust complementary medicines 21.2 41.1 37.6
Government monitors safety 21.3 36.8 41.8

Across the range of measures relating to complementary medicines, 18-34 year olds consistently show the highest level of Nett agreement and those in the 55 plus group show the lowest levels of Nett agreement. This overall pattern across age groupings in the survey is similar across both sample sources (Figures 41 and 42 and Tables 68 and 69).

Figure 41: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by age - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 68 data

Table 68: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by age - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Age Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust Gov monitors safety
18-34 40.7 16.7 31.5 37.0 35.2
35-54 30.6 18.5 25.4 29.7 19.4
55+ 19.2 11.0 14.8 16.8 14.1
Total 25.8 14.6 20.6 23.9 18.2
Figure 42: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by age - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 69 data

Table 69: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by age - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Age Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust Gov monitors safety
18-34 47.6 39.0 44.4 46.2 51.0
35-54 38.9 31.7 39.1 40.3 39.1
55+ 28.8 25.6 31.4 26.2 35.2
Total 38.5 32.2 38.4 37.6 41.8

Within the Opt-in sample females consistently show higher levels of Nett agreement on statements relating to complementary medicines (Figure 43 and Table 70). Most notably, females within this sample appear substantially more likely to agree that complementary medicines are safe (Females 31%; Males 18%) and that they trust complementary medicines (Females 28%; Males 14%).

Figure 43: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by gender - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 70 data

Table 70: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by gender - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Gender Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust Gov monitors safety
Female 30.6 16.0 23.4 27.9 20.5
Male 17.6 11.9 15.5 17.1 14.0

In contrast to the Opt-in sample, there are minimal differences between males and females in agreement on the range of statements relating to complementary medicines (Figure 44 and Table 71). Only one measure showed a difference of 5%, with males appearing slightly more like to agree that complementary medicines are manufactured to a high standard (Male 41%; Female 36%).

Figure 44: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by gender - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 71 data

Table 71: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by gender - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Gender Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust Gov monitors safety
Female 37.5 30.9 36.1 38.4 39.8
Male 39.4 33.3 40.6 36.8 43.6

There are no notable differences in relation to attitudes toward complementary medicines across metro and regional locations. Whilst the levels of agreement are generally high in the Panel based sample, the pattern of findings across these locations are generally consistent across both Opt-in and Panel based samples (Figures 45 and 46 and Tables 72 and 73).

Figure 45: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by location - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 72 data

Table 72: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Opt-in sample by location - Nett agree (%)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Region Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust Gov monitors safety
Capital city 26.6 16.3 21.2 25.0 20.5
Regional city/town 25.5 10.9 19.0 22.8 15.2
Regional/Rural area 23.1 16.7 23.1 21.8 16.7
Total 25.8 14.5 20.6 23.9 18.2
Figure 46: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by location - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 73 data

Table 73: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs - Population (Panel) sample by location (Nett agree %)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Region Safe Appropriately regulated Manufactured - High standard Trust Gov monitors safety
Capital city 39.7 32.9 39.3 38.5 42.1
Regional city/town 35.2 31.8 36.1 34.3 41.2
Regional/Rural area 36.6 26.8 36.6 39.0 41.5
Total 38.5 32.2 38.4 37.6 41.8

Consistent with patterns identified in relation to medicines, experience of side effects is associated with lower levels of agreement and higher disagreement across the statements relating to complementary medicines (Figure 47 and Table 74). The largest differences here occur in relation to government monitoring safety (Not experienced side effects: 37% Nett agreement; Experienced side effects: 27%) and perceptions of appropriate regulation (Not experienced side effects: 29% Nett agreement; Experienced side effects 19%).

Figure 47: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs by experience with side effects - Nett agree (%)
Line chart of Table 74 data

Table 74: Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs by experience with side effects (Nett agree %)

Shown below are some statements about complementary medicines that are available in Australia. Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement. (Nett agreement %)
Complementary medicines statement Experienced side effects
Yes No
Safe 28.8 36.6
Appropriately regulated 19.4 29.2
Manufactured - High standard 26.1 35.1
Trust complementary meds 27.9 35.2
Gov monitors safety 26.8 36.8

Medicines versus complementary medicines

Where statements across the Medicines and Complementary medicines question sets are comparable there is a strong pattern of more positive perceptions (higher agreement levels) in relation to Medicines (Table 75). Levels of agreement across perceptions of safety, appropriate regulation, manufacturing standards and government monitoring are substantially higher for medicines in comparison to complementary medicines across all groups in the survey. These results are consistent across samples, age groups, gender and regional status variables and highlight a key opportunity to communicate the role of the TGA and the regulatory frameworks supporting the safety and quality of complementary medicines.

Table 75: Medicines vs Complementary medicines - attitudes and beliefs (Nett agree %)
Medicines - Nett agree Focus Complementary medicines - Nett agree
53.5 Safe 33.9
61.3 Appropriately regulated 25.9
70.2 Manufactured to a high standard 32.0
63.8 The government monitors to identify safety issues 33.4

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