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Ethnic differences in access to prescription medication because of cost in New Zealand


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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