We have responded to an article in the BMJ by John Appleby, which highlights research into the effect of free prescriptions in Wales. It suggests that because the numbers of prescriptions being collected have not increased compared to a comparable region in England, prescription charges may not be a barrier to accessing medicines. We do not believe this necessarily follows as better management of a condition through effective medical treatment should result in fewer flares and complications and thereby reduce the requirement for medication as far as possible.
At the same time, prescription data in Scotland show an increase in prescription items for long-term conditions such as Crohn's Disease and Asthma since the introduction of free prescriptions, indicating increased access. More research is clearly needed to assess the impact of free prescriptions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for people with long-term conditions.
One thing is evident: people in these parts of the UK do not have to face the impossible decision about whether to pay for their medication or essential household bills - an unacceptable dilemma for some in England.
Read our response here and the original article here.
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