They've given me that many tablets, I'm bushed. I don't know where I'm going: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' experiences with medicines

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To explore Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients' experiences with medicines and the barriers and facilitators to their effective use of medicines.


A descriptive, qualitative study, using 18 semi-structured focus groups with 101 Aboriginal and Torres Strait participants. Groups were conducted at 11 Aboriginal health services. These were recorded, transcribed and a thematic analysis was performed.

Settings and participants:

Participants were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, taking multiple medicines, who attended Aboriginal health services (AHSs) and who spoke English. AHSs varied in governance, size and service delivery models as well as their locations which were across urban, regional, rural and remote settings.


Major themes identified were consistent across all settings and patients. These were confusion over medicines, perceived lack of advice from health professionals to patients about medicines and challenges in having effective interactions with medical practitioners and pharmacists. Participants wanted more information about medicine, indications for medicine, how they should be used, potential side effects, drug interactions and duration of therapy. They also reported an absence of appropriate medication labelling and written information.


Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients take multiple medicines and often find managing their medicines difficult and worrying. These patients require more comprehensive information, verbal and written, and more effective communications from doctors and pharmacists about medication indications, mechanisms, side effects, drug interactions and duration of treatment. Pharmacists have an opportunity to play a greater role in improving understanding of medicines and treatment choices.

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