Asthma: Paying the price

Why are NHS prescriptions not free for people with asthma and other chronic diseases? A friend with diabetes gets all of her prescriptions for free. I have asthma and must pay for mine.

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

Many years ago, the NHS decided that it would provide free prescriptions for patients who were suffering from "deficiency diseases" ones caused by the human body's inability to produce natural hormones. People with diabetes are not able to produce enough insulin, whereas asthma is not caused by a specific hormone deficiency. Yet if you had both diabetes and asthma, your asthma prescriptions would be free. The rules are hopelessly out of date, but no one seems keen to update them. Why, for example, isn't hormone replacement therapy free? It is a classic example of a condition caused by the body's inability to produce natural hormones. Your best bet is a pre-payment certificate, which is like a season ticket for prescriptions. If you buy more than four prescription items in three months or 14 items in 12 months, this will save you money. A three-month pass costs 26.85, a 12-month pass 98.70. You can pay for the 12-month pass by direct debit spread out over 10 months. You can order online at

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.