Cost of prescriptions prevent those with IBD from getting the medication they need

29 June 2017

Cost of prescriptions prevent those with IBD from getting the medication they need

A third of people living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other long-term conditions, who are currently paying prescription charges, have not collected their medication due to concerns over cost.

This is according to a new report released by the Prescription Charges Coalition, a coalition of more than 40 major health charities.

Crohn’s and Colitis UK co-chair the Prescription Charges Coalition which surveyed more than 5,600 people living with long-term conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis for its Still Paying the Price report.

The findings reveal an alarming picture of people struggling to bear the costs of prescriptions, with many putting their health at risk by skipping or reducing doses of medication or not collecting prescriptions altogether.

Prescription charges apply in England only, since they were abolished for all patients in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nearly a third of those who took part in the research and pay for their prescriptions (30%), said that they are skipping or reducing medication doses, with 43% of these citing cost concerns as key factor.

Equally worrying, the survey showed that for those that reduced or skipped medications due to concerns with cost: 

  • 59% experienced a deterioration in their health, with half of these needing to take time off work.
  • 34% needed to visit their GP or hospital. 

I had to go without medication due to the need to pay for food and rent cost. I ended up in hospital, all because money was tight.

A person living with IBD

It’s a travesty that prescription charges are preventing people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease from getting the treatment they need. Many are facing impossible choices over whether they should eat, heat their home or pay for the essential medications they need.

Not only is this situation dangerous, prescription charges are a drain on vital resources, costing the NHS more in the long-term, due to people’s need to access GP and hospital care when they can’t afford their medication.

Andy McGuinness, co-chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition
Crohn’s and Colitis UK

The Coalition believes the financial consequences of people not being able to afford their medication is likely to be far greater for the NHS and wider economy than the estimated £360-430 million (which is less than half a per cent of the NHS budget) that free prescriptions for working-age people with long-term conditions would cost.  

Crohn’s and Colitis UK are calling on the Government to implement the Gilmore report from 2009 which called for the extension of prescription charge exemptions to cover everyone with a long-term condition, to ensure a fair and sustainable system that supports people to stay well.

The list of conditions exempt from prescription charges has barely changed since 1968 and fails to include most long-term conditions that are prevalent today, like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

This means that those of working age with long-term – often lifelong – conditions are disproportionately affected by prescription charges, on top of facing the extra cost of managing their health and lower-than-average incomes due to their often limited ability to work.

Whilst people can buy the Prescription Prepayment Certificate to help with costs of their medication, another damning finding from the survey was that 40% of survey respondents said they found out about the scheme more than a year after their diagnosis. Furthermore, 43% of total respondents who would save money from having a certificate, didn’t have a one. The Coalition are calling on the Government to do more to promote this scheme to newly diagnosed patients. 

With the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the current outdated and inequitable prescription charge exemption system in June 2018, Crohn’s and Colitis UK along with The Prescription Charge Coalition will be undertaking a year of action calling on the Government to review the broken charges system. 

About the Prescription Charges Coalition

The Prescription Charges Coalition is a group of more than 40 organisations campaigning to end unfair prescription charges for people with long-term medical conditions.

Prescription Charge Prepayment Certificate

If you buy more than 1 prescription item each month, you may save money from buying a prescription charge prepayment certificate. Find out more.