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 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 £9.35.
We know that if you have to pay £9.35 for your regular prescriptions, the costs 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.
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's in-house 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're 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 £29.65 and you’ll save money if you need four or more items during this time. The yearly one is £105.90 and the more items you need, the bigger your saving will be.
Pick one up from your pharmacist or buy one online. 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.
Although it can be expensive, skipping your asthma medicines puts you at risk or an asthma attack. So it’s important to carry on taking your asthma medicine.
- You need a preventer inhaler to take every day, even if you’re feeling well, to protect against the inflammation in your airways. You get the benefits by taking your preventer every day. If you stop taking it for a while your airways will start being inflamed again. And your risk of an asthma attack will go up.
- 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 helpline.
In England, Wales and Scotland, Turn2us is a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.
In Northern Ireland, Finance Support supports people in times of financial need.
Find out more about managing your finances when you have severe asthma.
Last updated October 2020
Next review due April 2022