The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said it has “no current plans” to include asthma in the list of conditions that are exempt from the payment of prescription charges.
The statement comes after Asthma UK launched a campaign calling for prescription charges for asthma medication to scrapped so that people with asthma no longer have to “pay to breathe”.
In a written parliamentary answer submitted on 26 February 2019, the same day as the launch of the Asthma UK campaign, health minister Steve Brine said that extensive arrangements were already in place to help people afford NHS prescriptions.
“These include a broad range of prescription charge exemptions, for which someone with asthma may qualify,” he wrote.
“The department has no current plans to amend these exemptions, including the list of medical conditions that provides exemption from prescription charges.”
Responding to the news, Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: “Our latest research shows that over a million people are putting their health at risk because they are rationing their medication because of the cost. By not taking it, they are at risk of being hospitalised or even dying from an asthma attack.”
She added that asthma was different to other conditions because it varies over time and seasonal triggers can make it difficult for patients to predict how much medication they will need over the year.
“The prepayment certificate might help some people in the short-term, but cost is still a barrier preventing people with asthma from taking their medication,” she said.
Walker highlighted that more than 20,000 people had signed a petition launched by the charity, calling for asthma prescription charges to be stopped.