The cost of prescriptions is stopping some people from getting vital medication and one pharmacist says if something doesn't change, somebody could die.
Rotorua Life Pharmacy pharmacist Francis Dragicevich said it was something staff often saw - people would ask about the cost and and follow it up with "I'll come back later".
"It's just a diplomatic way of saying it's too expensive. In short, you could die and your overall life expectancy could deteriorate."
Dragicevich said she saw some people with multiple medications "pick and choose" which prescriptions they would get to keep costs down.
She said this became a real problem when the medicine needed to be taken together to work properly.
Although there were subsidies in place to help those struggling financially, "some people don't even have five cents to rub together".
Mum of two small children Jayde Howard, 26, has gone without prescriptions for herself because of the costs as her children were her first priority.
"There's been a few times when I should've gone to the doctors but I haven't just so the kids wouldn't go without food or nappies."
She said while there were subsidies, the combined costs of doctors and prescriptions added up.
"When you really don't have money to spare then any prescription costs on top of that can be a real struggle."
Rotorua Area Primary Health Services (RAPHS) chief executive Kirsten Stone said prescription costs were often "distressing" for patients as well as the pharmacists.
"Not being able to afford prescriptions is a really good example of how inequalities can impact on health and wellness for people and their whānau."
In a recent RAPHS Patient Experience Survey, 7 per cent of respondents reported that cost had stopped them picking up a prescription.
"This is clearly a concern, and one we seek to address. Funders and policy makers have done a really good job of bringing this cost down, but, for some, even $5 remains a massive barrier especially when there are multiple medications prescribed."
A woman who spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post on the condition of anonymity had also been influenced by price when getting prescriptions filled.
After a bad reaction to the medication she was given following knee surgery, she had to endure the pain as she could not afford the unsubsidised alternative.
"We have to suffer if we can't afford it ... even though that's pretty much our last option."
Lakes Pharmacy manager and pharmacist Paul Wu said it was sometimes difficult to find a balance between the high cost involved in medicine versus what people could afford.
"Sometimes we'll see people pick the important medicines," Wu said.
One of his main concerns was the lack of knowledge around available subsidies.
"I do think there should be more awareness ... people don't know they're entitled to a prescription subsidy card."
Stone highlighted that the cost of providing equitable access to healthcare is a challenge that is not unique to New Zealand.
An increased demand from an ageing population, socioeconomic pressures and increased levels of long-term conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease added to the "financial squeeze" on health services in New Zealand and Rotorua.
"Rotorua is unique in that these challenges are so concentrated and magnified in one community," said Stone.
She said that while additional funding helped, it was not the answer in itself.
"If this was easy it would have been done already."
Ministry of Health prescription subsidy
A policy for each subsidised prescription medicine, usually a $5.
Not all medicine is fully subsidised.
When patients and their families have collected 20 new prescription items in a year, they can get a prescription subsidy.
Check their website or speak to your pharmacist about this.
-Source: Ministry of Health