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Ethnic differences in access to prescription medication because of cost in New Zealand
  1. Santosh Jatrana1,
  2. Peter Crampton1,
  3. Pauline Norris2
  1. 1School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2School of Pharmacy, Te Kura Matauraka Wai-Whakaora, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Santosh Jatrana, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, P O Box 7343, Wellington, New Zealand; santosh.jatrana{at}


Objectives This paper aims to examine ethnic differences in financial barriers to access to prescription medication in New Zealand.

Methods Data from SoFIE-Health (wave 3), which is an add-on to the Statistics New Zealand-led longitudinal Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE) (N=18 320), were analysed using logistic regression, adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, health behaviour and health variables. Financial barriers to access to prescription items were measured by the following question: ‘In the past 12 months, have there been any times when a doctor gave you a prescription, but you didn't collect one or more of these items because you could not afford the cost?’.

Results The odds of deferring buying a prescription at least once during the preceding 12 months because they could not afford the cost of the prescription were greater for Māori and Pacific people than for NZ Europeans (OR 2.98, 95% CI 2.56 to 3.47 vs OR 3.52, 95% CI 2.85 to 4.35). Adjusting for potential confounders attenuated the ORs to 1.31 (95% CI 1.08 to 1.58) for Māori people and to 2.17 (95% CI 1.68 to 2.81) for Pacific people. Deferring buying medications because of cost was also associated with increased odds of poor self-reported health status, high/very high psychological stress and the presence of two or more comorbid conditions.

Conclusion Ethnicity plays a critical role in facilitating or impeding access to primary health care. This suggests that policy measures to further reduce financial barriers to buying medication may improve access to care for everyone including Māori and Pacific people and may have positive health implications.

  • Primary healthcare
  • prescription cost
  • access barriers
  • New Zealand
  • Access to HLTH SERV

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  • Access to the data used in this study was provided by Statistics New Zealand in a secure environment designed to give effect to the confidentiality provisions of the Statistics Act, 1975. The results in this study and any errors contained therein are those of the authors, not Statistics New Zealand.

  • Funding SoFIE-Health is primarily funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand as part of the University of Otago's Health Inequalities Research Programme. Establishment funding was also received from the University of Otago, Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand (ACC) and the Alcohol Liquor Advisory Council (ALAC).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.