We know that if you live in England and have to pay £9.00 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.
4 ways to stay well AND save money if you have asthma
New research from Asthma UK has revealed that three quarters of people with asthma are struggling to afford their prescriptions which can be more than £100 per year – and for some as even as high as £500. This means some people are skipping doses or trying to space out doses so that their medicine lasts longer. Asthma UK clinical lead and GP Dr Andy Whittamore explains how you can cut your costs without cutting back on your medicines:
1. Keep taking your preventer medicine: It’s vital to keep you well and prevent a life-threatening asthma attack. If you take your preventer inhaler properly it will build up protection in your airways so you won’t need to take your reliever inhaler as much, reducing prescription costs for your blue inhalers.
2. Check if you qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme
If you are on a low income and don't have a lot of savings, you can apply to the NHS Low Income Scheme which might offer you help with the cost of your prescriptions.
3. Pick up a pre-payment certificate: This is like a season ticket for prescriptions. The three-month one is £29.10 and you’ll save money if you need four or more items during this time. The yearly one is £104 and you’ll save money if you need 12 or more items in a year. (You save £4 a year if you need one item a month, but the more items you need, the bigger your saving will be).
Pick one up from your pharmacist or use the online form. You can pay in one go, or by direct debit.
4. Get non-branded antihistamines: Many people with asthma have allergies like pollen or pets which cause their asthma symptoms to flare up, so they need to take regular antihistamines. Get tablets named after the active ingredient such as cetirizine instead of buying branded tablets and it could cost you a tenth of the price.
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 £9.00.
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.
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 find it a hassle to pick up your prescriptions, the Electronic Prescription Service makes it easier to get your asthma medicines – find out more about this free NHS service.
Got more questions about your asthma prescriptions? WhatsApp our asthma nurse helpline.
Last updated August 2019
Next review due April 2022