Holidaymakers needing urgent medication over the holiday period are being stung by pharmacy surcharges.

Kathryn Trotter was surprised when Waihi Beach Chemist charged an extra $10 for a prescription on Boxing Day.

Trotter's eight-year-old son Alex required antibiotics for an infection on his legs.

Pharmacies, like other private businesses, are allowed to add a surcharge for services after hours or on public holidays. It is common at many restaurants and bars, who say it covers the increased cost of paying staff holiday rates.


Trotter said she had no problem with public holiday surcharges on coffee, but they shouldn't be extended to prescriptions.

"I wonder how many people would go without a script for two days and just say 'I won't take my medication today'," she said.

Waihi Beach Chemist manager Sara Preston said staff wouldn't charge the surcharge in an "absolute emergency".

"We use our discretion. It's a maximum of $10 per prescription," she said. "If it was seven items we wouldn't [charge $70 extra]."

Pharmacy Guild chief executive Lee Hohaia said surcharges were necessary for many pharmacies on public holidays.

"Pharmacies are just like any other business," she said. "They have to cover costs while providing a service to the public."