Ask about medicines

Welcome to the Ask about Medicines pages of the PiF website

Ask about Medicines was a campaign which ran from 2003-2009. Its mission has been to achieve lasting change by working with partners to encourage better communication between people and their health professionals and change expectations so that asking questions about medicines becomes the norm.

Ask About Medicines closed in 2009, but after six years of activities and campaigns it had created a wealth of resources to focused on improving communication about medicines. These resources and materials were handed over to the Patient Information Forum and are available for you to use and adapt. You are welcome to download and adapt these materials.

Central to the campaign have been the Ask About Medicines Questions, questions that people might like to consider asking a health professional when they are given a medicine. They are:

WHAT does this medicine do?

WHY is it important that I take this medicine? Are there any other treatment options?

WHEN and how should I take it?

HOW long should I take it for?

WHAT should I be aware of when taking this medicine? (eg. possible risks, side effects, taking medicines with certain foods/drinks/activities, what to do if I don’t feel well while I am taking it, how to store it safely etc)

WHERE can I go for more information?

Examples of activities undertaken as part of our annual Ask About Medicines Weeks can be found in the section called AAM Weeks.

About Ask About Medicines

Ask About Medicines, the independent campaign to increase people’s involvement in decisions about their use of medicines, will hold no further national, centrally-run Ask About Medicines Weeks or other campaigns. AAMW Ltd, the company that runs the campaign, closed in 2011 but the Ask About Medicines resources are still available for people to use, accessed through the Patient Information Forum.

Established in 2003, Ask About Medicines was a unique collaboration between the key stakeholders with an interest in the effective use of medicines including the Department of Health, a wide range of patient, NHS, academic and professional organizations and the pharmaceutical industry. 1,500 partners signed up to the campaign and received regular e-bulletins on the range of Ask About Medicines activities.

The Ask About Medicines mission was to achieve lasting change by working with partners to encourage better communication between people and their health professionals, and to change expectations so that asking questions about medicines becomes the norm. At the beginning we set a five-year strategy declaring that our role was to be a catalyst for change, providing a focus for a broad partnership of organisations to work together towards a shared goal. The progress made in the past six years shows the success of that strategy.

Patient involvement in decisions about treatment is now accepted as an aspiration for all. A NICE guideline has been developed on medicines concordance. More services now exist to enable people to understand and use their medicines effectively, such as pharmacy-based Medicines Use Review. And new resources have been created to enable people to make better informed choices about medicine-taking, including on-line Medicine Guides, now available through NHS Choices and visited by 6.5 million people last year.

While real progress has been made, particularly at national level, there is more work to do locally to make sure that the impact of Ask About Medicines is felt by individual patients.

Ask About Medicines highlights over the years included:

  • Six years of annual Ask About Medicines Week campaigns covering a range of important themes including choice, older people, children and mental health.
  • The development of the online guide Finding and using information about health and medicines to help people find and judge the quality of information on medicines and health.
  • Reaching the public through articles on Ask About Medicines in the News of The World, The Sun, The Times, BBC News and numerous local radio interviews over the years.
  • Joint campaigns and leaflets with leading patient organisations (such as Diabetes UK, Cancerbackup, Breast Cancer Care, The Lymphoma Association) and the ABPI to improve information for people with cancer, diabetes and neurological conditions
  • The Ask About Medicines Awards ( in partnership with the ABPI), recognising excellence in medicines information, with twenty winners over three years of the Awards.
  • The Ask Grants (in partnership with Merck Sharp & Dohme Ltd), providing support for twenty small projects to encourage better communication about medicines.
  • The Asking About Medicines As We Grow Up Lesson Pack, used by teachers and health professionals to deliver lessons on medicines to children aged 5-14.
  • The My Medicines sheet, for children and their parents to fill in together, which helps young people understand more about their medicines. Working with the Department of Health, this has been translated into 10 languages most commonly spoken by asylum-seeking children.

Ask About Medicines was supported by a number of individuals, organisations and companies over the years and would like to thank them.