BRITS are having to pick between eating and paying for vital medicines as the cost of living crisis continues to rise, medics have warned.
In some cases, people are returning unused medicines to pharmacies in a bid to get refunds so they can scrape by.
Mike Hewitson, a pharmacist from Somerset, told The Sun that some of his patients are having to “choose between treatment or eating”.
“And it’s not just patients on benefits,” he explained.
The pharmacist has also seen youngsters people try and return medicines.
“Younger people are having to pay higher rents are also struggling to make ends meet,” he explained.
Meanwhile, some pharmacists have started to cover patients’ prescription charges for them.
Ade Williams, a pharmacist from Bristol said: “It breaks the heart of many pharmacists knowing and seeing people not able to pay for their prescriptions.
“Many of us sometimes pay out of our pockets for them without even letting them know,” he added.
Among the drugs people are choosing to go without are antibiotics, painkillers, asthma inhalers, blood pressure medication and antidepressants.
“All of which, during the cost of living crisis and concerns about energy cost, are definitely not the ones to skimp on,” Ade added.
The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), which represents more than 3,000 pharmacies, says no patients should be denied prescription medicines because they cannot afford them.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIMP, said “it’s heart breaking” to see patients “struggling so much” they decide not to take over the counter medicine like paracetamol.
“But it’s unacceptable that some are having to say no to prescription drugs which are prescribed by doctors to treat serious illnesses,” she told The Sun.
“People should still be able to take prescription medicines even if they cannot afford them – something must be done to help,” she added.
Doctors have also said many of their most vulnerable patients are not taking vital medicines to save on prescription charges in response to the cost of living crisis.
FREE PRESCRIPTIONS CALL
In a letter, sent to the new Chancellor, GPs from St Helens, Merseyside called on the Government to “increase the number of people eligible for free prescriptions”.
Those eligible for free prescriptions include those on state benefits, pregnant women and new mothers, people with specified medical conditions or disabilities, the over-60s and under-16s.
Prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For everyone else, a single prescription costs Â£9.35.
Almost nine in 10 pharmacists in England said their patients often go without medicines because they cannot afford the prescription charge, a survey published in July found.
The majority said this has become more frequent in the past year â suggesting that the rising cost of living could be leading more people to miss out on vital medicines.
The group of GPs also called on the Government to help people with respiratory illnesses, in light of gas price rises.
They asked MPs to consider “providing subsidies to anyone who is at risk of severe illness due to cold weather (those aged over 65, those with respiratory illness and those with mobility problems) to ensure they can keep their houses heated.”
People living in cold homes have an increased tendency to suffer colds, flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.
A poll by the charity Asthma + Lung UK found that almost a sixth of people with asthma (523 out of 3,471) were cutting back on using their inhaler to make it last longer.
Respiratory disorders can be made worse by prolonged exposure to low indoor temperatures.
In response, a Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the rising cost of living and we are taking action to support households, including freezing prescription charges for the first time in 12 years.
“We have taken steps to help people afford NHS prescription charges and almost 89 per cent of prescription items in England are already provided free of charge.”
They added: “For those not exempt from charges, pre-payment certificates can be used to cap costs at around Â£2 a week for regular prescriptions.”
Meanwhile, huge plans to improve access to and reduce costs of HRT for millions could be delayed indefinitely.
In October, health minister Will Quince couldn’t guarantee proposals to allow women to pay a one-off annual charge for HRT rather than repeat prescriptions would be delivered by April as promised.
Over 60s face paying NHS prescription fees for years to come under new plans.
The Government wants to move the age Brits can get free prescriptions up from 60 to 66.
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