Taranaki health watchdogs are keeping a close watch on any negative effects caused by increased prescription costs.
Prescriptions increased from a minimum $3 each to $5 on January 1. High users pharmaceutical subsidy cards are due to expire on February 1.
After that time the high user must pay for 20 prescriptions (an extra $40) before qualifying for free prescriptions for the rest of the year.
In Kaitaia research is under way to find out how many people failed to pick up their medication because of the cost, then ended up in hospital as a result.
And in Christchurch a pharmacist has refused to increase his prescriptions because of hardship to his clients.
He reported last month he is seeing up to 20 per cent growth in prescriptions.
Like Minds manager Gordon Hudson, of New Plymouth, said yesterday mental health patients were high users of pharmaceuticals.
He believes the numbers of people who will now choose not to pick up their prescriptions because of the cost and the downstream effect that will have on their health will far outweigh the projected savings estimated by the government.
Lander and Black pharmacy co-owner Brent Lander, of New Plymouth, said there had been no problems since the beginning of the year in people not picking up their prescriptions - so far.
"Some have been a little surprised at the increase if they got multiple items," he said.
But from February 1 those that became exempt during the year would have to pay "so we may encounter problems then," he said.
Some people did not put health costs on the top of their priority list, he said.
"They don't rate paying for health," he said.
Beneficiaries not able to afford their prescriptions could apply for an emergency benefit through Work and Income, Mr Lander said.
If people did not pick up their prescriptions it came as a cost to the pharmacy which lost its dispensing fee, he said.
Waitara Health Centre practice manager Kathryn Smith said yesterday the surgery had no reaction from patients to date.
"We advertised it well in advance in the surgery so people knew."
In announcing the increase in last year's Budget, Health Minister Tony Ryall estimates $20 million will be saved and reinvested into the health sector in the first year and $40m in succeeding years.
There would continue to be no charge to children under-6, Mr Ryall said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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