Many of the country's sickest patients are missing out on millions of dollars worth of free prescriptions, a study has found.
Most people pay $3 for drug prescriptions, but after paying for 20 items in a year, individuals or families are meant to be exempt from this charge.
Using data from community pharmacy records, a research team from Otago and Victoria Universities found 40% of patients who had more than 20 items dispensed in a year still paid the prescription for 90% of medicines they should have received for free with a Prescription Subsidy Card.
Researcher Jackie Cumming from Victoria University says these patients are likely to be among the most vulnerable, such as people with multiple health problems, the elderly and those with low health literacy.
Pharmac data shows that 180,000 people pay for prescriptions after they should be exempt, costing them about $2.5 million a year.