Spreading word about subsidy

20 is Plenty . . . Final-year pharmacy students (from left) Harichandra Chhagan (24), Ali Adeeb (21), Fairuz Hashim (24), Anthony Fu (21), and Eleanor Go (21), are promoting their campaign to urge people to access their free prescription entitlements. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

A group of final-year Dunedin pharmacy students have launched a “20 is Plenty” campaign to raise community awareness of prescription subsidies.

Surveys by the University of Otago School of Pharmacy have shown that up to 60% of Dunedin people are unaware that, after paying for 20 prescription items, they become exempt from prescription charges for funded medicines.

The scheme runs from February 1 each year. Once eligible, you do not have to pay any more prescription charges up to January 31 the next year.

Pharmacy student Eleanor Go said it was clear many people were not aware of the subsidy scheme and continued to pay for medicines after 20 items.

Even fewer were aware the subsidy applied to families as a group, she said.

“Accessing the subsidy is simple, and can save families a lot of money,” Miss Go said.

The students have undertaken their 20 is Plenty campaign as part of their course requirements and it is supervised by School of Pharmacy Professor Pauline Norris and professional practice fellow Aynsley Peterson.

The project followed a campaign launched by another team of students last year, Prof Norris said.

This year’s team includes Miss Go, Harichandra Chhagan, Ali Adeeb, Fairuz Hashim and Anthony Fu.

Along with giving talks and raising awareness online, the students were also distributing “20 is Plenty” stickers for Dunedin pharmacies to use on bags of medication.

“Pharmacies around Dunedin have been really supportive and involved throughout the project,” Prof Norris said.

Anthony Fu said the students were also keen to promote the campaign to local schools in the hopes of reaching more families.

“It is surprising how many people don’t know about the subsidy, who really need to know,” Mr Fu said.

“People should ask their pharmacist if they are eligible, and also make sure to tell their pharmacist who is in their family.”

While the students were focusing on promoting knowledge in Dunedin through the 20 is Plenty campaign, there was a possibility of it being rolled out nationally, Prof Norris said.