Prescription costs set to rise

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 11:49 20/12/2012

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An increase in the cost of government-subsidised prescriptions will begin next month.

The standard charges for prescription medicines are to go up from $3 to $5 in January.

Prescriptions for children under six will remain free.

The rise has come under some scrutiny, including from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

"Increased prescription costs meant that many low income New Zealanders with high health needs will no longer be able to afford the medication they need," organisation spokeswoman Kerri Nuku said.

"The Government is telling us that the money has to come from somewhere. There's no arguing with that. What our organisation is saying is that the extra money needed for health should be coming from elsewhere, not from within the existing health budget."

But Pharmacy Guild Canterbury president Des Bailey believed New Zealand's pharmaceutical benefits scheme was fair, even with the $2 increase.

He said once a family or individual had paid for 20 prescriptions in a year, they qualified for a a Pharmaceutical Subsidy Card which meant they were exempt from paying the subsidised fee for the rest of the year.

"It's the first increase in prescription charges in 20 years ... The difference is an extra $40 a year before you get a prescription subsidy card," Bailey said.

Grey Power Christchurch president Ian Brownie also felt the rise was "reasonable".

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the savings from the prescription changes would amount to $20 million in the first year and $40 million in subsequent years.

The money saved will be invested into boosting the number of specialist cancer nurses and will help fund an extra 4000 operations a year.

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- The Press

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