Patient co-payments and use of prescription medicines

Evan Doran*, Jane Robertson, Isobel Rolfe, David Henry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate how prescription co-payments influence the medicine use of Australian patients. Methods: Two surveys and an in-depth interview study were conducted in the Newcastle/Hunter region of New South Wales (NSW). A community-based survey explored how often prescription cost posed a barrier to prescription use. A general practice patient survey investigated the impact of prescription cost on the timing of medical consultations and prescription collection. Quantitative data were summarised using descriptive statistics; associations between household characteristics and outcomes were explored using odds ratios and chi square analysis. In-depth interviews were conducted to explore the role of prescription cost in medicine use. The interview data were qualitatively analysed for relevant themes using 'grounded theory'. Results: 420 of 950 households (44%) participated in the community survey: 110 (26%) reported delaying visiting a GP, 85 (20%) not buying all of their prescription medicines and 77 (18%) not refilling a prescription because of cost. Sixty-two (15%) households reported significant difficulties with prescription costs. Households with children had twice the odds of reporting significant difficulties than those without (OR= 2.0, 95% CI 1.2-3.5). Of the 442 (43%) GP patients who participated, 25 (6%) patients reported prescription cost as the reason for delaying their visit. Of the 291 patients who received a prescription, 26 (9%) patients reported cost as the reason for not collecting some or all of their prescriptions. Implications: Given the wide variation in patients' capacity to manage increased out-of-pocket costs, co-payments may add to patients' burden and place a potential barrier to safe and timely prescription use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-67
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


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