Managing the cost of your medicines

If you have to pay for your asthma medicines, there are ways to reduce the costs.

We know that if you live in England and have to pay for your regular prescriptions, the cost can mount up, especially if you have to pay for other medicines too. (If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you don't have to pay prescription charges.)

The good news is that lots of people qualify for free prescriptions. And even if you have to pay, there are ways to reduce the costs if you have a long-term condition like asthma.

Why you need to keep taking your asthma medicines

Although it can be expensive, it's really important to carry on taking your asthma medicine. Your GP or asthma nurse has prescribed it to you because they know it can help you stay well, and reduce your risk of an asthma attack.

  • You need a preventer inhaler to take every day, even if you're feeling well, to protect against the inflammation in your airways. The effects build up gradually over time. Stopping for several days at a time can mean the protection starts to wear off.
  • You need a reliever inhaler (usually blue) to treat asthma symptoms and asthma attacks quickly. Everyone with asthma needs to keep their reliever inhaler with them all the time in case they have an asthma attack.

If you're struggling with the cost of your medicine, speak to your GP or asthma nurse. Don't skip doses because you can't afford your medicine, or try to space your doses out so your medicine lasts longer. 

How much do medicines cost?

If you live in England, you'll have to pay for your asthma medicines, unless you're entitled to free prescriptions. 

This means that every item prescribed by a GP, asthma nurse or hospital consultant will cost you the standard prescription charge of £8.80. 

Who can get free prescriptions in England?

In England you can get free NHS prescriptions if, at the time the prescription is given out, you:

  • are 60 or over
  • are under 16
  • are 16-18 and in full time education
  • are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate (MatEx)
  • have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate (MedEx)
  • have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without help from another person and have a valid MedEx
  • hold a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability
  • are an NHS inpatient.

You can also get free prescriptions if you or your partner (including civil partners) are named on, or are entitled to, an NHS tax credit exemption certificate or a valid HC2 certificate (full help with health costs), or you receive either:

  • Income support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit.

You can find the full list of people who don't have to pay for prescriptions here.

It can also be found on the HC11 and HC12 leaflets, the NHS's guides to help with health costs.

To check whether you qualify for free prescriptions and get help making a claim you can call the NHS Low Income Scheme helpline on 0300 330 1343.

There’s lots of useful information about financial support and benefits for people with asthma here.

If you’ve been diagnosed with severe asthma, this condition can be classed as a disability. Find lots of useful tips and ideas about managing your finances here.

What can you do to cut the cost of your asthma medicines?

If you pay for your prescriptions the costs can soon mount up. A Pre-Payment Certificate (PPC) can save you money if you need more than one item a month.

Current charges for a PPC are:

  • £29.10 for three months (worthwhile if you need four or more items during this time)
  • £104 for 12 months (worthwhile if you need 13 items or more during this time).

If you pay by direct debit you can spread the cost over monthly instalments. This makes it easier to budget, plus you'll save money - if you need two items a month, you can save £90 with a 12-month certificate, for example.

You can get a PPC in one of the following ways:

  • Call: 0300 330 1341 (interpretation services available)
  • Online: Using the NHS's online application form
  • Post: Using the FP95 form, which is available from your local GP surgery or pharmacy or you can download it here
  • Pharmacy: The FP95 form can be used to buy PPC directly at pharmacies registered to sell the PPC

If you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you don't need a PPC, because your prescription is free of charge.

Electronic Prescription Service makes it easier to get your asthma medicines

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) is a free NHS service. It means your GP can send your repeat prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy of your choice. So you don’t have to worry about using paper prescriptions or making trips to your GP surgery to collect them.

If your GP practice is using the EPS, you can ‘nominate’ a place where you’d like them to send your electronic prescriptions.

Simply ask your GP surgery or pharmacy to record the place you've chosen. Once you’ve done this, you can re-order your prescriptions as normal through your GP practice (either online or by phone), and they'll send them electronically to your chosen pharmacy or dispenser. You can then collect your asthma medicines whenever it’s convenient for you.

Find out more about the EPS, and whether your GP surgery is offering the service

Last updated April 2018

Next review due January 2020