The most vulnerable are among the 40 per cent of people still
paying for prescription medicine when they should be exempt,
a university study has found.
After paying for 20 prescription items in a year, individuals
and families should be excluded from paying for further
medicine, said the University of Otago and Victoria
But the research team found 40 per cent of people still paid
for 90 per cent of their next prescriptions.
To receive the exemption, people must have a Prescription
Subsidy Card, have one main pharmacy, and collect receipts
from any other pharmacies they visit and take these to their
However, many people might not know about the card or
procedures, said Professor Pauline Norris.
Researchers found the results using anonymous data from
community pharmacy computers which identified individuals who
had had more than 20 items dispensed to them in a year.
Most of them were from the country's most socio-economically
"Those with multiple health problems, the elderly and people
with low health literacy ... might struggle with these
procedures required to be exempt," said Professor Norris.
The cost to patients buying prescriptions when they should be
exempt was about $2.5 million a year, said the study.
Standard charges for prescription medicines will go up from
$3 to $5 in January.
New Zealand and overseas research has shown prescription
charges lead to less use of medicines and poorer health
outcomes, said the researchers.