Carmen is a social issues and rural reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Bay patients can no longer afford prescriptions

IN FAVOUR: Local GP Tony Farrell is in favour of a graded cost system for government-funded pharmacy medicine.PHOTO/FILE
IN FAVOUR: Local GP Tony Farrell is in favour of a graded cost system for government-funded pharmacy medicine.PHOTO/FILE

Bay people could be jeopardising their health by not collecting prescriptions or only picking up some of their medication because of cost, professionals warn.

Western Bay of Plenty PHO chief executive Roger Taylor said the "inability to pay is not a new reality, unfortunately, but it may create health risks in the future".

"People's health is being compromised and often results in the need for more serious care later," he said.

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Tauranga GP Tony Farrell said the problem had "got worse lately" as people struggled with other costs. He was in favour of a graded system where patients with a Community Service Card could pay $3 and "perhaps those that are better off pay $8".

Figures from the Ministry of Health show about 948,000 prescriptions were dispensed in Tauranga in 2014 that did not include repeats with numbers expected to be similar for last year, new data showed.

Ministry of Health pharmacy chief adviser Andi Shirtcliffe said there were many reasons why people did not choose to pick up their prescriptions, including mobility issues, adherence challenges, health literacy and personal beliefs. The most recent health survey results noted that 7 per cent of adults reported not collecting a prescription due to cost.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said some of the service's clients were waiting for pay day for adequate funds to pick up prescriptions. It had heard of people picking up antibiotics but borrowing medicines like paracetamol from a neighbour.

Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand chief executive Lee Hohaia said it strongly believed that all patients in New Zealand have the right to accessible and affordable medicine.

"When cost becomes a barrier to patients being able to access their medicine, this is an issue. The guild has worked with some of our members to try and secure extra funding for families facing financial hardship by talking to WINZ and the Ministry of Social Development."

Pharmacies could not claim reimbursement for medicine until it was picked up by the patient, however, "some medicine cannot be reused once they have been prepared and in these situations the pharmacy bears the financial loss. Currently we hear that the biggest barrier to patients collecting their medicine is the $5 co-payment. The co-payment is the patient's contribution to their medicine costs and is collected by pharmacy for the Government."

Waughs Pharmacy owner/pharmacist Neil Waugh said 'we do have a number of people that will cherry pick the items that they see as most urgent and leave others".

"Often we will supply starting quantities and they will come in later when they have some money to pick up the balance."

Bethlehem Pharmacy manager Mark Arundel said only a small number of its prescriptions were not collected.

Local pharmacist Mark Arundel. Photo/file
Local pharmacist Mark Arundel. Photo/file

- Bay of Plenty Times

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