Free prescriptions save money

New research from Canada has confirmed the point campaigners have been making for decades: that prescription charges deter or prevent poorer patients from complying with the treatment they need – and offer only an illusion of financial savings.

2-year study involving almost 800 patients in various parts of Ontario showed that regular use of prescribed medicines was 35% higher amongst those receiving free prescription drugs than those left to fend for themselves, while free distribution of medication also reduced healthcare costs, including hospitalization, by an average of $1,222 per patient per year.

Canada is the only country with universal healthcare that does not have a universal pharmacare program to subsidise or exempt vulnerable and low income patients from the full cost of prescription drugs.

But the findings also underline the value of scrapping charges on prescriptions in the NHS, currently standing at £9.35 per item, and posing barriers to care for many on low pay that just exceeds the upper limit for exemption.

Full story in The Lowdown, 1 June 2021