Pharmacy overrun after keeping fees low

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2013

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A Christchurch pharmacy that did not increase its prescription fees as part of a national price rise has been "extremely busy".

The maximum fee pharmacies can charge patients for prescription items was increased from $3 to $5 on January 1.

Linwood's Community Pharmacy had charged $1.50 for prescriptions and increased the fee to $3 on New Year's Day, rather than $5.

Pharmacist Anne Tiller and husband Joe opened the pharmacy two years ago after seeing a need for lower-cost medications in the area.

Joe Tiller, the business manager, said the pharmacy had been extremely busy since prescription fees increased.

"I would say compared to this time last year we would see a good 15 to 20 per cent growth," he said.

Anne Tiller said the pharmacy had seen new faces as people looked to cut costs.

"We see a lot of people that basically live week to week and there is no extra money. For some people, it is just really hard trying to find this extra money."

Canterbury Community Pharmacy Group general manager Graeme Smith said Christchurch pharmacists he had spoken to believed the impact of the fee increase would not be felt until next month, when exemption cards ran out for high users.

The cards are issued to families or individuals who pay for at least 20 prescription items in a 12-month period, starting on February 1.

"People are grumbling about the increase, but they're generally paying it," Smith said.

"There are always one or two people who will put things on hold until they can afford it."

Labour acting health spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said the $2 increase on January 1 was "significant" for many people.

He said a universal fee was necessary, but it should not have been increased.

"We've taken the universal approach because people cannot qualify for the community services card, but still be struggling financially.

"We don't want these people to forgo needed pharmaceutical treatment and then find themselves in hospital," he said.

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- The Press

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