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Petition launched to end prescription charges

Third of patients say cost stops them from taking drugs

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 03 March 2014

An influential coalition of charities and representative health bodies have launched an e-petition calling for an end to prescription charges in England, the last country in the UK to have such fees.

The petition follows a new report from the Prescription Charges Coalition, which found that more than a third of patients said they did not take drugs prescribed to them because of the cost.

The Coalition is an alliance of over 30 charities concerned with the impact of prescription charges on people with long-term conditions and includes the British Heart Foundation, Crohn's and Colitis UK, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The report says: “The [prescription] system of exemptions, established in 1968 and largely unchanged today, is outdated, arbitrary and inequitable.”

The Coalition survey had responses from 5,159 adults and the findings showed that more than a third reported that the cost of their medication had prevented them from taking it as prescribed.

Three quarters of those who said that they were not taking their medication as prescribed because of the cost reported that this had affected their ability to work and for 70% of these, this had included time taken off work

Analysis of the responses also revealed that people with long-term conditions in England were cutting pills in half to save money and going without food or falling behind with their household bills as a result of the cost of prescribed medication.

In the report, the authors said prescription charges had a detrimental impact on the working lives of people with long-term conditions at all income levels and of all ages, although this was greatest for younger people and those on the lowest incomes.

“The findings of this survey support earlier research which demonstrates that the cost of prescriptions is leading to self-rationing of medication for people with long-term conditions of working age,” says the report.

“This is compounding the difficulties that people with long-term conditions face in securing and retaining suitable employment. Consequently, there is a significant impact on the individual’s quality of life and ability to manage their condition, which in turn affects health outcomes, societal costs and productivity.”

The Coalition’s new e-petition says: “We, the undersigned, call on the UK Government to end the unfair and outdated system of prescription charges for millions of people in England with long-term conditions.”

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