Prescription-fee project one of four Otago studies funded

University of Otago pharmacy researcher Prof Pauline Norris is "very pleased and excited'' to have gained a $150,000 feasibility study grant focusing on the effect of prescription charges on some people with low incomes.

The Health Research Council (HRC) yesterday announced seven feasibility study grant recipients throughout the country, with funding amounting to $1.05million.

Four of the recipients, including Prof Norris, are Otago researchers, who will together receive about $600,000.

Prof Norris said prescription charges in New Zealand were low but "can still prevent some people picking up prescription medicines they need''.

The feasibility study would help prepare the way for a planned later experiment in which researchers would recruit people who had many health problems, used many medicines, struggled to pay for prescriptions and were "likely to need more hospital care if they do not take their medicines''.

The aim was to divide the group in half, pay prescription charges for one group and compare the use of health services by the respective groups to see whether free prescriptions made a difference, she said.

Other Otago feasibility grants, all about $150,000: Prof Janet Hoek, marketing, e-cigarette study; Associate Prof Bob Hancox, preventive and social medicine, beta-blocker research; Dr Lisa Te Morenga, human nutrition, sugar-related research.

Two researchers at Otago's Christchurch campus, Dr Claire Heppenstall and Dr Pippa Scott, also gained HRC emerging researcher first grants amounting to $145,459 and $149,982 respectively.

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