‘End prescription charges for people with asthma’, charity says

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Asthma patients should not have to pay “unfair” prescription charges for the medication they need to stay alive, a leading charity has said.

More than three-quarters of people with asthma who pay for their prescriptions said they struggle to afford them, according to a new report by Asthma UK.

The charity is urging Health Secretary Matt Hancock to add the condition to the prescription charges exemptions list.

Prescriptions are free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while those in England with long-term conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy are entitled to a medical exemption certificate to also avoid the cost.

Asthma UK said the charge, which applies to people with asthma in England of working age and in employment, is “outdated”.

More than 6,000 people were hospitalised with asthma in Yorkshire and Humber in 2017.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: “It is unfair that millions of people with asthma are getting a raw deal, paying unfair costs for their medicine just to stay well.

“No-one should have to pay to breathe. When people are struggling financially they may feel they simply cannot afford to pay for the medication.”

Asthma UK surveyed 9,000 sufferers, almost 7,500 of whom paid for their prescription.

Some 76 per cent said they struggled sometimes or always to pay for their medication. More than half, 57 per cent, said they had skipped taking or been sparing with their medicines because of the cost.

Of this group, around a quarter said they had suffered an asthma attack after being sparing and 13 per cent had needed emergency treatment.

The UK death rate from asthma has increased 20 per cent in the last five years and is among the worst in Europe,.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been asked to comment.