Prescription charges rise 'could increase the risk of life-threatening asthma attacks', warns charity

Responding to the news that today [1 April 2019] that prescription charges will increase from £8.80 to £9 per prescription, Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Research and Policy at Asthma + Lung UK, says:

“The rise in prescription charges is another blow to people with asthma and could put more than a million at risk of a life-threatening asthma attack.1 Our research shows that three quarters of people with asthma are already struggling to afford prescription charges2 and we estimate that more than a million people with asthma have skipped their medication because of the cost.3 By not taking their life-saving medication people are at risk of being hospitalised or even dying from an asthma attack.

“It is utterly unfair than millions of people with asthma are paying just to breathe, especially when those with some other long-term conditions get their prescriptions for free. Asthma is often a life-long condition and it is life-threatening so people with asthma should get their prescriptions for free to help them stay well. We are urging everyone who thinks it’s unfair to join our Stop Unfair Asthma Prescription Charges campaign and sign our petition to urge the Government to remove prescription charges for people with asthma. To sign the petition visit:”

Key stats 

  • 2.3 million people in England with asthma who have to pay for prescriptions 4
  • A quarter of people who had cut back on their medication told us that they had an asthma attack as a result and more than 1 in 10 needed emergency treatment 5
  • The number of adults with a lifetime diagnosis of asthma in the UK is increasing.9 The UK death rate from asthma has increased 20% in the last five years and is among the worst in Europe.10
  • Every year, asthma costs the NHS £297 million in hospital admissions and GP appointments.11
  • 9 in 10 of those who are on a low income struggled to pay for their medication6
  • 7 in 10 of those who struggled to pay were ‘financially vulnerable’, on a zero hours contract, in debt or with no savings7
  • On average, asthma prescriptions cost more than £100 per year but thousands of people may be paying more than £400 per year8


For further information, please contact:

Emma Warren, Senior Media Officer – 0207 786 4982 or

Asthma + Lung UK media team – 0207 786 4949 or

Out of hours – 07951 721 393


Notes to Editors

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  1. Paying to breathe: Why unfair asthma prescription charges must be stopped. We surveyed 9001 people for three weeks in November 2018 through an online survey. We asked “have you ever taken less of/been sparing with your medicine or not taken it as regularly as you should have because of the cost?”. To estimate how manypeople were sparing with their medication, we applied the proportion (57.1%) to the number of people who pay for their medication (2.34 million) to get 1,336,140
    1. Ibid. Of the 9,001 people surveyed, 7,465 said they were paying for their asthma medication. We asked “Do you find it difficult to afford your prescriptions"?  75.8% said they struggled to pay sometimes or always for their medication.
    2. See reference 1.
    3. 4. 5 million people in England have asthma. An estimated half of people (52%) with asthma have to pay for their prescriptions, according to Asthma + Lung UK’s Annual Asthma Survey 2016, which is 2.34 million
    4. Ibid. 24.1% said they suffered from an asthma attack after being sparing with their medication because of the cost. We applied this proportion (24.1%) to the number of people who were sparing with their medication because of the cost (1,336,140) to get (322,010). 13.2% said they had needed emergency treatment because they had been sparing with their asthma medication
    5. Ibid. Of those with an income below £20,000, 92.4% struggled to pay for their medication
    6. Vulnerable characteristics included, in the last 12 months: zero hours contract, unemployed, used overdraft, no savings and used a payday loan. These vulnerable characteristics came from the Financial Lives Survey 2017:
    7. Ibid. 1.6% of people who paid for their prescriptions said they paid £422 every year for their prescriptions
    8. The number of adults with a lifetime asthma diagnosis continues to rise:!po=4.16667
    9. To calculate asthma death rates for each country, we looked at the number of deaths for each country and the population of each country to work out a rate of deaths per 100,000. This is because countries are of different population sizes, so the raw numbers wouldn’t be reflective of the true situation.
    10. The epidemiology, healthcare and societal burden and costs of asthma in the UK and its member nations: analyses of standalone and linked national databases, Mome Mukherjee, Andrew Stoddart, Gupta Ramyani, Bright I Nwaru, Angela Farr, Martin Heaven,  BMC Medicine, 29 August 2016:


About Asthma + Lung UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma + Lung UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • For more information about asthma please visit