Denby Kennedy, 54, from Cheshire, has glaucoma, an eye condition in which the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, is damaged. It is usually caused by an accumulation of fluid in the front part of the eye, which increases the pressure inside it. Glaucoma can lead to vision loss if not diagnosed and treated early. The most common treatment for glaucoma is prescription eye drops. They work by lowering the pressure in your eye and preventing damage to your optic nerve.
These eye drops do not cure glaucoma or reverse vision loss, but they can prevent glaucoma from getting worse.
When Denby was diagnosed nearly 10 years ago, he wasn’t buying his eye drop treatment because it was so expensive.
Denby said: “I used to be scolded by the consultant for not taking them. I couldn’t afford them. I was told you had to take them you would go blind.
“If I go blind, ironically, I’ll get free prescriptions.
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“My friend has epilepsy and diabetes, both of which qualify for free prescriptions. I think that is by its very nature discrimination and it’s not even hidden.”
Denby, who works in a meat factory, uses two different eye drops a day.
He is now buying a three month prescription prepayment certificate which is £30 every three months to pay for drops and other tablets.
He said: “When you look up the costs of buying individual items each month, that’s a lot of money. The prepayment certificate makes it cheaper, but it’s still money and it adds up. .
“Especially when people with other conditions get it for free.”
A recent investigation by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) revealed that this was not an isolated case.
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The research found that nearly nine in 10 pharmacists in England say they have patients who go without medication because they cannot afford the prescription costs.
About 68% of pharmacists said it had become “more common in the past year”.
For three-quarters of pharmacists, this happens one to five times a week and 15% say they see these patients between six and 20 times a week.
According to the survey, the most common medications missed due to prescription costs are antibiotics, pain relievers, asthma inhalers, antihypertensives and antidepressants.
The results of this survey have raised concerns that the rising cost of living is causing patients to run out of life-saving drugs.
The dispensing fee is currently £9.35 per item in England.
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The charge does not apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however.
The Prescription Charges Coalition, which is a group of 50 UK charities, has written to MP Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the health and social care committee, asking for an investigation into the Prescription Charges Exemption List in England which has was established in 1968.
The coalition, which includes Parkinson’s UK, highlighted the “precarious position” many people with long-term conditions could be forced into if they cannot afford their medicines and called for their removal as a other British countries.
Currently, some serious conditions are not on the exemption list in England.
These include asthma, sickle cell disease, HIV, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma and stroke.
Laura Cockram, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Parkinson’s UK and Chair of the Prescription Charge Coalition, said: “These striking results are why we are campaigning with people with long-term health conditions to ask the government UK to revise this obsolete system.
“Although prescription fees have been frozen for this year, it is worrying that the cost is causing some vulnerable people to skip medication, which can lead to hospital treatment and ultimately cost the NHS more. “
National Pharmacy Association Vice President Nick Kaye added: “People should not be denied access to prescription drugs on the basis of their ability to pay.
“We would like to see the prescription tax reformed or removed altogether, to remove this barrier to treatment.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“We recognize the pressures people are facing with the rising cost of living and we are taking action to support households, which is why we have frozen dispensing fees for the first time in 12 years.
“Thanks to our extensive provisions to help people pay NHS prescription costs, 89% of prescriptions in England are already provided free of charge.”