PA NEWS 17th June 2003
:: PR Newswire, London, June 17. This press release is transmitted on behalf of National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease.

St Albans, Hertfordshire, June 17 /PRNewswire/ -- EMBARGOED - Not for publication before 00:01 hrs, 20th June 2003

- People with Colitis and Crohn's Disease deserve a fairer prescription deal

People with Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease - both serious and sometimes life-threatening inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) - are campaigning for a fairer deal on prescription charges. At present, people diagnosed with Colitis or Crohn's have to pay the full prescription charges for each of their medicines, whereas some other long-term medical conditions qualify for exemption. The National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease (NACC) is concerned that the current situation may be adding a financial barrier to patients taking all the medicines they need for their treatment to be effective.

Treatment for IBD often requires taking several medicines over long periods so the costs really mount up and become a significant extra burden on families whose income from work may already be reduced because of their illness.

Director of NACC Richard Driscoll, explains, "The NACC campaign is underpinned by a new survey of 3,000 members that shows that over half needed more than 12 prescriptions in a year and most were taking two or more prescribed medicines - a potential outlay of over #150. Some are exempt from the #6.30 per prescription charge on grounds of age or the low income means test, but 71% of our members are having to pay for their medicines, and three-quarters told us their medicines are costing them over #80 per year."

Richard Driscoll continues, "NACC members feel strongly that medicines for Colitis and Crohn's Disease and for all similar long-term conditions should be free. Patients and their families have to live every day with the distressing physical effects of bowel disease and they lose out in so many ways in terms of interrupted education, reduced work opportunities and restricted social lives - they deserve a fairer deal on prescriptions."

Until Colitis and Crohn's Disease are added to the list of illnesses qualifying for exemption, NACC is trying to raise awareness of the Prescription Pre-payment Certificate (PPC) as a temporary answer. Richard Driscoll says: "For those patients who know they will have more than 14 prescriptions in a year and who can afford to pay #90 up-front, the PPC does put a cap on their prescription costs; and the scheme can benefit anyone with a long-term condition."

"Worryingly though," concludes Richard, "we found that 5% of our 3,000 members had never heard of the scheme and another 5% reported they could not afford the Pre-payment option. This was particularly so among younger members and those who have been recently diagnosed. One has to question whether patients on tight family budgets are in fact able to take the optimal levels of the medicines necessary to control their IBD. Exemption from charges is the real answer."

NACC is raising awareness of the unfairness of the present system during the annual Colitis and Crohn's Week and will be holding a briefing for MPs at the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments. In Wales, where the Welsh Assembly has already voted to consider the extension of the exemption to other conditions, NACC will be contacting members of the Assembly to make the case for Colitis and Crohn's Disease to be included. Additionally, the 30,000-strong NACC membership is being encouraged to write to their local MPs to inform them of the impact prescription costs have on them.

To assist NACC in raising awareness of the Prescription Pre-payment Certificates, Lloydspharmacy are kindly promoting a NACC patient leaflet that highlights the benefits of the PPC and explains how to apply for the card. During Colitis and Crohn's Week, Lloyds will display the new NACC leaflet in their 1,350 branches to help put the message across to the 8,000 people newly diagnosed with IBD each year.

For more information on the NACC Prescription Charge Campaign and details of how to petition local MPs, please call the Campaign Hotline on +44 0845 130 3823 or visit the NACC website on