Objectives: patient co-payments for prescription medicines in Wales were abolished in April 2007 and there has been much speculation on the possible effects. We analysed patient-reported use of medicines before and after abolition of the prescription charge, noting changes in the number of items prescribed, number of non-prescription medicines purchased and participants not collecting all prescribed items (primary non-adherence).
Methods: a sample of community pharmacists across Wales (n = 249) issued questionnaires to customers at the point of dispensing who were not exempt from the prescription charge. A second questionnaire was delivered by post to those who returned the first questionnaire (n = 1027) and expressed a willingness to participate further. Paired t-tests were applied to responses from those completing both questionnaires (n = 593). Further analyses were carried out according to gender, age and reported levels of household income.
Key findings: there was a statistically significant (P = 0.03) rise in the number of items prescribed, and a statistically significant fall (P = 0.02) in the number of non-prescription medicines purchased. Primary non-adherence was also found to fall between pre- and post-abolition periods. Those most affected in terms of increase in number of prescribed items prescribed were the older age group (45-59 years), and those with household income of between £15600 and £36400. The most affected in the fall in number of medicines purchased were males, those in the lower age group (25-34 years) and those with a higher household income (>£36400).
Conclusions: although the rise in number of items prescribed and fall in number of medicines purchased was generally anticipated, there appeared to be little or no effect for those on the lowest incomes.