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Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009
Drug charges 'attacks on health'

By Dave Howard
Newsbeat politics reporter

Prescription drugs
England pays for its prescriptions, but in Wales they're free

If you live in England and you get asthma, migraines or other illnesses, it can cost you more than 7 every time you need drugs to make you better.

If you needed the same drugs in Wales, you'd get them from the chemist for free.

It's because politicians in Cardiff decided to scrap prescription charges a few years ago.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are set to do the same thing very soon.

In England though, you only get drugs for free if you meet certain conditions.

It could be that you've got a particular type of illness like diabetes, you're on benefits, you're pregnant, or you're under 16 years old.

If you don't fall into any of those categories, you have to pay. Currently 7.10 a time. But from next month 7.20.

People with long term conditions can get a 'pre-pay' certificate. It's a bit like a year-long season ticket - but even that costs more than 100.

'It's not on'

In Bristol, just over the border from Wales, a lot of people think they're getting a rough deal.

Twenty-eight-year-old Chloe said: "It's not on really is it? Not if they're getting theirs for free, and we're just a few miles away."

They're only a few miles from us, so why should they be different?
Mark from Bristol

Her friend Mark agreed: "They're only a few miles from us, so why should they be different?"

"I know people who've got things like asthma, and I think it's wrong that they've got to pay for drugs they need to help them survive."

Twenty-six-year-old Tim said it was lucky for people in Wales if they got treated better. But he added: "Then again, we are meant to be one country. With things as serious as that, it should be one rule for all."

It looks like a lot of senior doctors agree with Tim.

Laurence Buckman, from the doctors' group the BMA, thinks prescription charges in England mean some people can't afford the drugs they need.

"Quite often the pharmacist will have to choose between various items," he said. He called the charges "attacks on health".

A review of prescription costs in England is now underway but it's unlikely they'll be made free.

Instead ministers could agree to extending the list of medical conditions considered so serious you don't have to pay for your drugs.

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